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Rudbeckia hirta is an upright annual (sometimes biennial or perennial) growing 30–100 cm (12–39 in) tall by 30–45 cm (12–18 in) wide. It has alternate, mostly basal leaves 10–18 cm long, covered by coarse hair, with stout branching stems and daisy-like, composite flower heads appearing in late summer and early autumn. In the species, the flowers are up to 10 cm (4 in) in diameter, with yellow ray florets circling conspicuous brown or black, dome-shaped cone of many small disc florets.
Gloriosa daisies are tetraploid cultivars having much larger flower heads than the wild species, often doubled or with contrasting markings on the ray florets. They were first bred by Alfred Blakeslee of Smith College by applying colchicine to R. hirta seeds; Blakeslee's stock was further developed by W. Atlee Burpee and introduced to commerce at the 1957 Philadelphia Flower Show. A hallmark of prairies and meadows, Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is a biennial that blooms and completes its life cycle in its second year with an extravagant floral display. Transplants will bloom the year they are planted, and will easily self-sow onto open soil, creating a more or less consistent stand over time. Exceptionally showy and easy to grow, Rudbeckia hirta has a prolonged bloom time that attracts butterflies and other pollinators. The late season seed heads attract finches and other birds. Easy to grow and very drought tolerant, this Rudbeckia tolerates heat, drought and a wide range of soils, but does not like poorly-drained, wet soils. Seeds may be sown directly in the soil at the last frost date.
Rudbeckia are perennial flowering plants that are hardy in Zones 4–9. Like many plants, they have several common names, among which are: Black-eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy, and Yellow Ox Eye. They are members of the Asteraceae family and are native to both damp woodlands and dry prairies in North America. Most are considered perennial; however, there are some annual species, such as R. hirta. Species that are commonly available are R. hirta, R. fulgida, R. grandiflora, and R. triloba. Black-eyed coneflower (also commonly known as black-eyed Susan) is planted as a garden ornamental, and also used in seed mixes for prairie restoration or erosion control. Thus, some cultivated strains may be introduced. There are two varieties in New England, one (Rudbeckia hirta var. hirta) is a rare native found in Massachusetts and Vermont. The other (R. hirta var. pulcherrima) is introduced, and found throughout New England. (Source: gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org)