(Rudbeckia hirta) Thistle family
Flower-heads - From 10 to 20 orange-yellow neutral rays around a
conical, dark purplish-brown disk of florets containing both
stamens and pistil. Stem: 1 to 3 ft. tall, hairy, rough, usually
unbranched, often tufted. Leaves: Oblong to lance-shaped, thick,
notched, rough. Preferred Habitat - Open sunny places; dry fields. Flowering Season - May-September. Distribution - Ontario and the Northwest Territory south to Colorado and the Gulf States. So very many weeds having come to our Eastern shores from Europe, and marched farther and farther west year by year, it is but fair that black-eyed Susan, a native of Western clover fields, should travel toward the Atlantic in bundles of hay whenever she gets the chance, to repay Eastern farmers in their own coin. Do these gorgeous heads know that all our showy rudbeckias - some with orange red at the base of their ray florets - have become prime favorites of late years in European gardens, so offering them still another chance to overrun the Old World, to which so much American hay is shipped? Thrifty farmers may decry the importation into their mowing lots, but there is a glory to the cone-flower beside which the glitter of a gold coin fades into paltry nothingness. Having been instructed in the decorative usefulness of all this genus by European landscape gardeners, we Americans now importune the Department of Agriculture for seeds through members of Congress, even Representatives of States that have passed stringent laws against the dissemination of "weeds." Inasmuch as each black-eyed Susan puts into daily operation the business methods of the white daisy (q.v.), methods which have become a sort of creed for the entire composite horde to live by, it is plain that she may defy both farmers and legislators. Bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles could not be kept away from an entertainer so generous; for while the nectar in the deep, tubular brown florets may be drained only by long, slender tongues, pollen is accessible to all. Anyone who has had a jar of these yellow daisies standing on a polished table indoors, and tried to keep its surface free from a ring of golden dust around the flowers, knows how abundant their pollen is. There are those who vainly imagine that the slaughter of dozens of English sparrows occasionally is going to save this land of liberty from being overrun with millions of the hardy little gamins that have proved themselves so fit in the struggle for survival. As vainly may farmers try to exterminate a composite that has once taken possession of their fields. Blazing hot sunny fields, in which black-eyed Susan feels most comfortable, suit the TALL or GREEN-HEADED CONE-FLOWER OR THIMBLEWEED (R. laciniata) not at all. Its preference is for moist thickets such as border swamps and meadow runnels. Consequently it has no need of the bristly-hairy coat that screens the yellow daisy from too tierce, sunlight, and great need of more branches and leaves. (See prickly pear.) This is a smooth, much branched plant, towering sometimes twelve feet high, though commonly not even half that height; its great lower leaves, on long petioles, have from three to seven divisions variously lobed and toothed; while the stem leaves are irregularly three to five parted or divided. The numerous showy heads, which measure from two and a half to four inches across, have from six to ten bright yellow rays drooping a trifle around a dull greenish-yellow conical disk that gradually lengthens to twice its breadth, if not more, as the seeds mature. July-September, Quebec to Montana, and southward to the Gulf of Mexico. TALL or GIANT SUNFLOWER (Heliainthus giganteus) Thistle family Flower-heads - Several, on long, rough-hairy peduncles; 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 in. broad; 10 to 20 pale yellow neutral rays around a yellowish disk whose florets are perfect, fertile. Stem: 3 to 12 ft. tall, bristly-hairy, usually branching above, often reddish from a perennial, fleshy root. Leaves: Rough, firm, lance-shaped, saw-toothed, sessile. Preferred Habitat - Low ground, wet meadows, swamps. Flowering Season - August-October. Distribution - Maine to Nebraska and the Northwest Territory, south to the Gulf of Mexico. To how many sun-shaped golden disks with outflashing rays might not the generic name of this clan (helios = the sun, anthos = a flower) be as fittingly applied: from midsummer till frost the earth seems given up to floral counterparts of his worshipful majesty. If, as we are told, one-ninth of all flowering plants in the world belong to the composite order, of which over sixteen hundred species are found in North America north of Mexico, surely over half this number are made up after the daisy pattern (q.v.), the most successful arrangement known, and the majority of these are wholly or partly yellow. Most conspicuous of the horde are the sunflowers, albeit they never reach in the wild state the gigantic dimensions and weight that cultivated, dark brown centered varieties produced from the COMMON SUNFLOWER (H. annus) have attained. For many years the origin of the latter flower, which suddenly shone forth in European gardens with unwonted splendor, was in doubt. Only lately. it was learned that when Champlain and Segur visited the Indians on Lake Huron's eastern shores about three centuries ago, they saw them cultivating this plant, which must have been brought by them from its native prairies beyond the Mississippi - a plant whose stalks furnished them with a textile fiber, its leaves fodder, its flowers a yellow dye, and its seeds, most valuable of all, food and hair oil. Early settlers in Canada were not slow in sending home to Europe so decorative and useful an acquisition. Swine, poultry, and parrots were fed on its rich seeds. Its flowers, even under Indian cultivation had already reached abnormal size. Of the sixty varied and interesting species of wild sunflowers known to scientists, all are North American. Moore's pretty statement, "As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets The same look which she turn'd when he rose," lacks only truth to make it fact. The flower does not travel daily on its stalk from east to west. Often the top of the stem turns sharply toward the light to give the leaves better exposure, but the presence or absence of a terminal flower affects its action not at all. Formerly the garden species was thought to be a native, not of our prairies, but of Mexico and Peru, because the Spanish conquerors found it employed there as a mystic and sacred symbol, much as the Egyptians employed the lotus in their sculpture. In the temples the handmaidens wore upon their breasts plates of gold beaten into the likeness of the sunflower. But none of the eighteen species of helianthus found south of our borders produces under cultivation the great plants that stand like a golden-helmeted phalanx in every old-fashioned garden at the North. Many birds, especially those of the sparrow and finch tribe, come to feast on the oily seeds; and where is there a more charming sight than when a family of goldfinches settle upon the huge, top-heavy heads, unconsciously forming a study in sepia and gold? On prairies west of Pennsylvania to South Dakota, Missouri, and Texas, the SAW-TOOTH SUNFLOWER (H. grosse-serratus) is common. Deep yellow instead of pale rays around a yellowish disk otherwise resemble the tall sunflower's heads in appearance as in season of bloom. The smooth stalk, with a bluish-hoary bloom on its surface, may have hairs on the branches only. Long, lance-shaped, pointed leaves, the edges of lower ones especially sharply saw-toothed, their upper surface rough, and underneath soft-hairy, are on slender, short petioles, the lower ones opposite, the upper ones alternate. Honeybees find abundant refreshment in the tubular disk florets in which many of their tribe may be caught sucking; brilliant little Syrphidae, the Bombilius cheat, and other flies come after pollen; butterflies feast here on nectar, too and greedy beetles, out for pollen, often gnaw the disks with their pinchers. Very common in dry woodlands and in roadside thickets from Ontario to Florida, and westward to Nebraska, is the ROUGH OR WOODLAND SUNFLOWER (H. divaricatus). Its stem, which is smooth nearly to the summit, does not often exceed three feet in height, though it may be less, or twice as high. Usually all its wide-spread leaves are opposite, sessile, lance-shaped to ovate, slightly toothed, and rough on their upper surface. Few or solitary flower-heads, about two inches across, have from eight to fifteen rays round a yellow disk. The THIN-LEAVED or TEN-PETALLED SUNFLOWER (H. decapetalus), on the contrary, chooses to dwell in moist woods and thickets, beside streams, no farther west than Michigan and Kentucky. Its smooth, branching stem may be anywhere from one foot to five feet tall; its thin, membranous, sharply saw-edged leaves, from ovate to lance-shaped, with a rounded base, roughest above and soft underneath, are commonly alternate toward the summit, while the lower ones, on slender petioles, are opposite. There are by no means always ten yellow rays around the yellow disks produced in August and September; there may be any number from eight to fifteen, although this free-flowering species, like the PALE-LEAVED WOOD SUNFLOWER (H. strumosus), an earlier bloomer, often arranges its "petals" in tens.
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