Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade
Soil moisture: Medium
Flowering period: July to September
Host plant for 23 caterpillar species
Along the wooded riverbank, a yellow wildflower rises gracefully above its peers, and with its petal-like rays bowed gently towards the ground, looks out across the stream below. Judging by its stature and bloom, the enchanting cutleaf coneflower seems to have strayed from the meadow, but indeed it is most at home in the partial shade of the riparian woodland. As such, it makes a rare contribution to the ecosystem aesthetic, both in the natural landscape and in the home garden. For those desiring a tall, showy wildflower, but constrained by a garden space with suboptimal light availability, cutleaf coneflower is a great choice. Additional attractions include exquisite, deeply lobed and divided leaves, and the bustling pollinator community that the plant seems to bring with it.
Distinguished by the Xerces Society for possessing special value to native bees, cutleaf coneflower attracts both long and short-tongued pollinators, including bees, moths, skippers, butterflies, wasps, and flies. Similar to other Rudbeckia species, black-eyed Susan and brown-eyed Susan, cutleaf coneflower’s floral rays display ultraviolet coloration invisible to the human eye, but visible to bees. To a bee, the rays encircling the plant’s flowerhead are two-toned, creating an inner and outer ring around the central disk, like a bullseye that signifies the presence of floral rewards. To judge from all the buzzing around the flowerheads, the bees are pretty good at hitting the mark!
Cutleaf coneflower produces its attractive blooms near the tops of its 6-8’ stems for approximately one month in late summer. Native to NE Ohio habitats including riparian woodlands, swamps, and the margins of wet woods, cutleaf coneflower grows well under light availability ranging from full sun to shade and soil moisture spanning average to wet. Spreading by means of underground stems, or rhizomes, the plant can become aggressive in some situations. Common associates of cutleaf coneflower in partially shaded zones include wingstem, late figwort, foxglove penstemon, and oxeye sunflower.
Photo by USDA NRCS Montana