Bushy perennial with much-branching stems. Flowerheads numerous, much smaller than our other rudbeckias, to 1 inch across. Rays 10–16, bright yellow; ray florets with a ring of maroon-red around the disk are sometimes seen. Disk dark brown. Blooms June–November. Leaves lanceolate, with fine to coarse teeth, hairy, the bases narrowly winged or clasping. Lower leaves 3-lobed but are usually shed before flowering time.
Similar species: There are 9 Rudbeckia species in Missouri. Four of the most common are black-eyed Susan (R. hirta) (generally unbranched, one flowerhead at the branch tips to 4 inches across); wild goldenglow (R. laciniata) (to 9 feet tall, green disk, 6–10 yellow rays, deeply lobed leaves with 3–7 lobes); Missouri black-eyed Susan (R. missouriensis) (much like R. hirta but smaller, very hairy, with all but the lowest leaves linear); and sweet coneflower (R. subtomentosa) (hairy, to 6 feet tall, 12–20 yellow rays per head).