As the warm days of summer wind down, the Brunswick County Botanical Garden has many plants in full bloom. If you look closely in the microclimate garden you will find a native currently thriving. It is Rudbeckia laciniata or commonly called green-head coneflower. Green-head coneflower is an herbaceous perennial that grows 3-to 10-feet tall. It is in the family Asteraceae. It prefers moist, slightly acidic soil and will grow in sun or part shade. It is naturalized now throughout all of North America. Because it spreads rampantly by underground rhizomes, green-head coneflower is only appropriate for large areas. It is found in woods, meadows, stream banks, and roadside ditches. www.wildflower.org (Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center) This plant tolerates hot, humid summers so it is considered aggressive in Zone 8.
To keep it under control, divide clumps and deadhead old flowers to encourage rebloom. Green-head coneflower displays 2-to 4-inch yellow flowers from late summer into the fall. Foliage is divided into one or two pairs of toothed lobes on the bottom leaves, while upper leaves may or may not be lobed. A rosette of leaves that originate at the base of the stem stays through the winter, creating an attractive winter ground cover. www.plants.ces.NCSU.edu
Green-head coneflower supports Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerate) larvae. Nectar and pollen attract butterflies, native, and honey bees. Songbirds especially American Goldfinches, eat the seeds in the fall. www.plants.ces.NCSU.edu
Early spring leaves were boiled for greens by Cherokees and other Southeastern peoples (Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation).
Green-head coneflower was selected as the 1995 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year, a program managed by the North Carolina Botanical Garden with some financial support from the Garden Club of North America. www.plants.ces.NCSU.edu
Be sure to look for green-head coneflower when you visit the Botanical Garden. It is a stunning specimen.
Photos and information by Jeanne Pavero, North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox