Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia Hirta: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Easily-sown of Wild Plants

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Black-eyed Susan, while not edible like most plants we’ve featured, is a medicinal herb and a butterfly favourite that is so easy to plant. It adds bountiful pops of sunny yellow to meadows and path sides.

For the most part I’m covering plants that are both edible and medicinal, but it’d be “sow easy” to plant this beauty, we’re giving her a bump so you can find the seeds and be ready for spring planting! The day I was finishing this blog someone posted their first hand sown native plant pictures in Ontario Native Plant Gardening. It was the native black-eyed Susan.

Black-eyed Susan is common around cottage country, in fields, sandy roadsides, disturbed ground, sometimes damp edges of woods. I’m always happy to find a wildflower meadow with them in bloom.

Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia Hirta
Meadow with Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia Hirta

Edible Uses of Black-eyed Susan

They’re not for human consumption; they are hairy and bitter anyway. But the pollinators love it. Below are a Northern crescent (left) and a coral hairstreak (right).

Northern crescent on a black eyed susan
Coral hairstreak on a black eyed susan

Medicinal Uses of Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Immune?
  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Antimicrobial, Astringent and Diuretic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes as an astringent skin wash. The flowerheads and roots contain antimicrobial thiophenes.

But more exciting, the root extract may be a strong immune stimulant similar and possibly better than echinacea, for people with suppressed immune systems (ex. AIDS). This needs to be studied further.

Black-eyed Susan - Rudbeckia Hirta
Black-eyed Susan – Rudbeckia Hirta

Alternative Uses of Yellow-daisy

You can obtain a pale green dye from the flowerheads. A fibre artisan and blogger posted about her successful dyeing with the flowerheads here. She ended up with a light celery green color.

Growing Rudbeckia Hirta

Make sure you find black-eyed Susan seeds (hirta specifically) and not brown-eyed or another non native. I got mine from Lee Valley. The instructions on the package say to sow the seeds outdoors two months before the last frost. More specifically, to mix the seeds with a cup of sand, spread over the area and rake in or cover with a light soil medium. No advanced degree in seed germination required! It’s hardy, pretty, and will spread. It looks wonderful in a wildflower meadow mix. And it flowers longer than most other perennials.


Allergies to the compositae/asteraceae family are fairly common.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

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