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Rudbeckia laciniata blooms profusely from a large central rosette which roots deeply and resists being overwhelmed by other plants once established. The great height (up to 8 feet or more!) comes mainly from the long stems which bear branches of many yellow flowers similar to Black-Eyed Susan but with green centers. The weight and profusion of blooms usually require some support, either by hoops, stakes, or other tall plants. It is adapated to both woodland edges and streamsides, making this the perfect plant for stablizing the woodland side of a stream running along the edge of a sunny opening.
A Popular Ornamental
Cutleaf Coneflower is widely cultivated for the cutting garden, and will produce best in full sun and average to moist well-drained soil. In shade or dry soil it will tend to flop over. In ideal conditions, it can spread aggressively through underground runners once established, but will initially constrain itself to the central rosette. As a consequence, it is not recommended for small contained gardens in moist well-drained soil and sunny conditions. Wildflower.org recommends acidic soil, but the NC State Extension finds it growing in a wide range of acidic to alkaline soils.
A Keystone Species
Rudbeckia laciniata is a Tallamy keystone species, hosting (along with Rudbeckia hirta) 20 species of Lepidoptera and 29 species of native specialist bees in Eastern North America (how many of these can be found in Floyd is unknown). The pollen and nectar attract butterflies as well as many pollinators, and the seeds attract birds and small mammals. Given its large size and vigorous presence once established in ideal conditions, it can be a great contributor to the ecosystem.
In Virginia, there are several varieties of Rudbeckia laciniata present, including Rudbeckia laciniata var. laciniata, Rudbeckia laciniata var. digitata, and Rudbeckia laciniata var. humilis. The Flora is skeptical as to the purported ranges of each of these, nor to the difference between var. digitata and var. humilis which are very difficult to differentiate between. Read more at the Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora.
Virginia Heritage Community Types
Rudbeckia laciniata is found in richer variations of Montane Mixed Oak and Oak – Hickory Forests together with purple giant hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia), white bergamot (Monarda clinopodia), pale-leaved sunflower (Helianthus strumosus), richweed (Collinsonia canadensis), yellow jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), common black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), starry campion (Silene stellata), stout goldenrod (Solidago squarrosa), hairy-jointed meadow parsnip (Thaspium barbinode), and Appalachian meadow-rue (Thalictrum coriaceum).
It is also found in Montane Woodland Seeps growing alongside orange jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), rough-leaved goldenrod (Solidago patula), rough-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago rugosa var. rugosa), white turtlehead (Chelone glabra), golden saxifrage (Chrysosplenium americanum), golden ragwort (Packera aurea), American false-hellebore (Veratrum viride), marsh blue violet (Viola cucullata), and marsh marigold (Caltha palustris var. palustris).
Source: Fleming, G.P., K.D. Patterson, and K. Taverna. 2021. The Natural Communities of Virginia: a Classification of Ecological Community Groups and Community Types. Third approximation. Version 3.3. Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, Richmond, VA. www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/natural-communities/ [Accessed: 12-May-2023]
“Early spring leaves boiled for greens by Cherokees and other Southeastern peoples.” (Wildflower.org) “Traditionally, the young leaves have been gathered from the wild and eaten in the early spring. They are greatly favored as a potherb (cooked). Though some references state the use of this plant as salad greens (raw), traditional use is as cooked greens. This is assumed to be done to remove toxins. However, there is little evidence of their presence.” (Wikipedia, 2023)