Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:annual, biennial, short-lived perennial
Habitat:sun; fields, prairies, open woods, roadsides, disturbed soil
Bloom season:June - October
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals

[photo of flower] 1 to a few long-stalked flower heads at the top of the plant and arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are 2 to 3 inches across with 8 to 20 yellow-orange petals (ray flowers) and a dark brown or purplish button-shaped to hemispheric to cone-shaped center disk. The disk is covered in dozens of tiny dark purplish-brown flowers that bloom from the bottom of the disk up.

[photo of bracts] The bracts surrounding the base of the flower are linear-oblong, widely spreading, and densely covered with long stiff hairs. Inner bracts are shorter than the outer bracts. Flower stalks are densely covered in long, stiff, spreading hairs.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are variable in shape and size, but are 2 to 7 inches long and up to 2 inches wide, lowest leaves generally lance-oblong, lance-elliptic, or spatula-shaped on long stalks, becoming shorter stalked as they ascend the stem with the upper leaves stalkless. Edges are toothless or with a few shallow teeth; surfaces are densely covered in short stiff hairs. Stems are unbranched or few-branched in the upper half, covered in long, white, stiff, spreading hairs.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] The center disk becomes a head of dry, dark brown-black, 4-sided seeds that lack a tuft of hairs. The hairy bracts and seed head persists into winter.


Black-eyed Susan can be found growing in almost any sunny location - dry fields, roadsides, or along lake shores, in patches or scattered amongst other vegetation. It is rather variable in the size, shape and toothiness of leaves, and size and shape of the disk, but is distinguished from other species with similar flowers by the long, spreading hairs. There are 4 recognized varieties: var. hirta with coarsely toothed, egg-shaped leaves found from Illinois eastward, and var. pulcherrima, common throughout the eastern 2/3 of North America, including Minnesota; 2 other vars are regional to southern states. Black-eyed Susan cultivars are popular in the nursery trade, notably Gloriosa Daisy, with a large, bright red eye on the flowers.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Carlton counties and in a private garden in Lino Lakes.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Ella - Mankato
on: 2013-07-14 09:36:09

I have been doing a lot of research on wildflowers near where I live. This website has helped me SO much! My family and I love to study nature. We kinda work as a team in doing it. I take pictures of the plants to help us identify them. Then I also research them. After we have gathered all of the necessary information, we type it out and document it. Thank you Minnesota Wildflowers!

Posted by: Sharon Adams - NORTH BRANCH
on: 2018-07-23 21:39:45

Many of these plants were on walking trail between Stacy and Wyoming, MN.

Posted by: LeAnn Plinske - Rotary Riverside Park
on: 2021-06-20 10:52:16

Blooming now along either side of the paved trail that splits the two wetlands, Brainerd.

Posted by: JaneR - Twin
on: 2021-08-06 01:32:22

Would a side-by-side comparison of rudbeckia hirta var hirta, and rudbeckia hirta var pulcherrima be possible? The former being listed as "rare" (elsewhere) and only found in Vermont and Massachusetts - but now rarely. See Thank you.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-10 10:23:43

JaneR, images for the rare var only found in parts of New England are not available, and probably aren't very relevant for Minnesota anyway, since the likelihood it would be encountered anywhere in the Upper Midwest is negligible. The taxonomy may also up for some debate; BONAP lumps the two vars into var. hirta.

Posted by: Chris St George - Pine County
on: 2021-08-18 17:46:27

I have two Rudbeckia plants side by side in a shoreland planting. Seeded at different times, same native supplier. Both identified as Rudbeckia initially, but I don't have the tags now. One has leaves that are flat and some toothing at edge. It has a yellow orange flower and more cone shaped center. The other one has a slightly thick hairy leave that is more elipticle and the color is more yellow, has both disk and conical center. Are they just variations or different species.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-19 08:56:42

Chris, the leaves of black-eye susan can be variable in shape and sometimes have a few teeth, but the leaves and stems should all be similarly hairy. If you would like confirmation, post some images on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page.

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