Leaf of the Day: Black Eyed Susans, Real and Unreal

Gorgeous, glowing Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, the ones that flower later in the summer and always bring a smile and are a classic cottage garden flower. I love the simple daisy shape and I always grew some of these pretty happy flowers in the UK.

A few days ago I wrote about the necklace pod plant here…and unfortunately, during research, found the vintage jewellery site Ecletica here which sells amongst other things bakelite. I love bakelite, so when I saw these I just had to have them and how well they fit in with the blog, don’t they? (justification for spending money on non-essentials)
Huge darling pair of bakelite Black-Eyed Susans are really very large buttons. Each measures almost 2 inches in diameter and the petals are curved.
They came beautifully wrapped and packed and with an initial email containing more info from Laurel, who runs the site..
“I found these Black Eyed Susan in an old, ramshackle, wood frame notions factory in rural Arkansas eleven years ago. This worn barn-like structure had all these old buttons and zippers and threads and this was my treasure find of the day! I had always planned to make them into earrings but never got around to it so I put them on the site. Happy that they have found an appreciative new home. They are large and wonderful!

Indeed they are, and I didn’t know that bakelite changes colour with the sun…what a very useful, informative and educational purchase this was. Self indulgent? Moi?

Black eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta, from the Asteraceae family, was named Rudbeckia by Linneus in gratitude to Olof Rudbeck the Younger, a professor at at Uppsala University who was instrumental in helping Linneaus in his early days.
He wrote to Olof Rudbeck on July 29, l731: “so long as the earth shall survive, and each spring shall see it covered with flowers, the Rudbeckia will preserve your glorious name”
What a lovely thought.

The flowers are interesting as they are a composite flower, with the large orange ray petals surrounding a disk of further tiny ray and disk flowers. There is some complicated botany here which I will return to another time when I can draw the actual flower.

On a literary note “Black Eyed Susan” is the famous ballad, written by John Gay in about 1723. This ballad is about the sad farewell of a sailor to his love in which he gives her the unlikely assurance that, despite the sailor’s reputation he will be honourable. It was very popular and set to many tunes. I like to think the flower was named after the song, no one really knows , but another “flower” name from the poem is that of the sailor himself, Sweet William…or is this just a coincidence. A fine pair they make and it is interesting to note that in one version of the Victorian Language of Flowers, Sweet William stands for gallantry while Black Eyed Susan signifies fidelity…Hmmmm, nice thought, I guess I am just an old cynic.

The buttons came in a gold box wrapped in white tissue paper with a very sweet red ladybird stamp.. so I painted them just as they came out of the box. What a nice touch to a very satisfying purchase.

Black Eyed Susans

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