Is Black-Eyed Susan Toxic?

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Few flowers are more instantly recognizable than the black-eyed Susan, with its egg-yolk-yellow petals and dark center disks. Closely related to the daisy, this wildflower is also called the brown daisy or the yellow ox-eye daisy. While this bright and cheerful flowering plant has never been found to be toxic to humans, it's better to leave them in the field or in a vase.

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It is not advisable to eat any part of the black-eyed Susan plant. Though not considered poisonous, the plants can cause sensitive people allergic skin reactions and asthma attacks.

Meet the Black-Eyed Susan

The bright wildflower called black-eyed Susan (​Rudbeckia hirta​) has become a garden staple. Fast-growing and self-seeding, black-eyed Susan is well known for its daisy-like flowers with many thin petals and large, central seed heads. The leaves of the entire genus are hairy and scratchy, an adaptation to keep insects away.

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If you don't have any growing in your yard, look for these flowers in the wild or along roadsides. Black-eyed Susan is native to the central United States and can be found in most parks in the Midwest.

Grow Black-Eyed Susans

Anyone with a wildflower garden will want to consider adding black-eyed Susans to their landscape. Keep in mind that different cultivars grow to different heights. The species plant grows to over 3 feet tall, with 6-inch leaves and 3-inch flowers. The large, "happy" blossoms attract butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

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These flowers bloom the full season from June to October if planted within their growing area, U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. They prefer a sunny location and well-drained soil. They are native plants, so require little to no fertilizer or fuss.

Appreciate Health Risks

There is no evidence that black-eyed Susan flowers or plants are toxic or poisonous to humans when ingested. The plant has a disagreeable taste which would certainly discourage snacking on them. However, these wildflowers have been known to be slightly toxic to cattle and pigs that eat them.

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Currently, there is also no evidence that the flowers can poison humans when swallowed, but they have been known to poison grazing animals. Black-eyed Susans can, however, be toxic to cats when consumed.

Anyone with a known allergy to these plants should stay away. Even absent an allergy, the hairy leaves of the black-eyed Susan can irritate skin and cause redness and even blistering.

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