Brown-Eyed Susan

Photo of bushy clump of brown-eyed Susan plants.
Scientific Name
Rudbeckia triloba
Asteraceae (daisies, sunflowers)

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).


Height: to 5 feet.

Where To Find
image of Brown-Eyed Susan Distribution Map

Scattered statewide, but apparently absent from the Southeast Lowlands, and uncommon in the northwestern quarter of the state.

Occurs in low, wet woods, roadsides, edges of woods, streamsides, and valleys.

Many rudbeckia species are cultivated as garden ornamentals or sold as cut flowers. Native Americans used them medicinally, for treating a variety of ailments. Some species might be poisonous to livestock, though because of their disagreeable flavor livestock generally avoid eating them.

The aster family (Asteraceae) is perhaps the largest family of flowering plants in the world, with at least 23,000 species. It includes sunflowers, goldenrods, thistles, dandelions, and ragweeds. They all produce flowerheads of densely packed florets that function much like an individual flower.

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Similar Species
About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri
A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!