An Especially Black-Eyed Susan

As summer deepens, many plants are completing their life cycles; this Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) on the Brazos Bend State Park prairie was well along in the process when I found it on the morning of July 11.

Despite being surrounded by still-blooming companions, it not only had dried and formed seeds, it also was providing support for a tendril from an unidentified plant. The combination of brown, red, and black, as well as the intricacy of the tendril’s growth, pleased me as much as the bright yellow flowers surrounding it.


Comments always are welcome.


62 thoughts on “An Especially Black-Eyed Susan

    1. It’s true. On the other hand, I really enjoy being able to see the structure of seeds and pods after the prettiness of the flowers is gone. When they perform other interesting functions, like serving as a trellis for a vine, what’s not to like?

    1. Tendrils are so interesting, and some of them can grow so quickly they’re almost moving into Little Shop of Horrors territory. We have some plants with vibrant red new growth, like peppervine; this isn’t peppervine, but it’s just as attractive.

    1. The way the vine has snaked in, through, and around the plant, it does look like there was intention behind it. I suppose the fabled path of least resistance played a role. I love all of the tiny details, like the little hairs on the stem and the way the tendril split to go in two directions. I’m sure someone understands something of how that happens, but it certainly isn’t me.

    1. I’ve never seen the film, but a couple of lines from the song are so true: “There’s more to see than can ever be seen –More to do than can ever be done.” I first heard the song when it was done by the Angel City Chorale — one of my favorite choral groups.

    1. I’d say your impression is exactly right. Not only is the color the same in both photos, the little bits of white fluff are present on both vines. Not only that, you spoke of the “the long and winding path” your vine took. There weren’t any grape vines visible near the section of prairie where I found this, but a relatively short distance down the trail there were grape vines climbing up into the trees. There’s no reason one of those vines couldn’t have been sneaking along the ground beneath all of the grasses and forbs.

    2. You were exactly right. I went back to the same spot yesterday, and a week had been long enough for full-sized leaves to develop. There was no question that it was grape vines twining though the prairie.

      1. It’s good you were able to find the spot a week later. Mustang grape vines are very common in my part of Austin; I’ve often photographed them, and that’s why I recognized the tendril.

  1. Just as we hope others will think of us as we age, there is an acquired beauty that comes with aging that many don’t appreciate. “Youth be served” may apply to young humans but there is no reason for it to not apply in nature as well. Life should be celebrated through its entirety.

    I like how the strong stalk of the black-eyed susan gives purchase to the winding tendril. It reminds me of the grass pink image I shared a while back. There is a lot of intertwining support in nature.

    1. Your first paragraph brought to mind the Traveling Wilbury’s “End of the Line,” with those great lyrics: “It’s all right, even if you’re old and gray; it’s all right, you still got somethin’ to say.” Of course, that winding tendril could suggest a song from one of your new favorite groups: “Like an ivy clingin’ vine, clingin’ closer all the time…”

    1. Are you sure that it’s deer eating your Black-eyed Susans? Most sites, like, have it listed as deer resistant. Of course, ‘deer resistant’ isn’t ‘deer proof.’ You may have some deer with very sophisticated tastes!

  2. My Brown-eyed Susan has only begun to bloom — just goes to show the difference in our climates, huh? There’s something a tad sad about the natural cycle of bloom-and-die. I realize some of these plants need to die so their seeds will produce more plants though (and perhaps serve as food for critters?)

    1. It is interesting to watch bloom time vary so much from one area of the country to another. Even here in Texas, the state is so big that people “follow” the spring wildflowers as they move northward through the state. I suspect you probably could follow spring wildflowers for two or three months, and maybe even more.

      This plant does feed a lot of those critters you mentioned. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds, so the plant’s providing for everything from bees to birds through its life cycle. It might not feed bunnies, though. I’ve read that it’s both deer and rabbit resistant, which is all to the good.

    1. Thanks, Becky. Sometimes I’m not altogether sure how I spot these little oddities. Occasionally, it’s as though nature’s saying, “Hey. You! Look over here!” So I do!

  3. Ah! One of nature’s secret beauties. I am so glad it did not escape your eye, Linda … or your camera lens. This is a treat to behold!

    1. Isn’t it something? I’m generally fond of tendrils anyway, but the combination of that straight stem and the curvaceous vine appealed tremendously. I’m glad you like it — there’s nothing wrong with ‘pretty,’ but sometimes ‘interesting’ deserves a spot on the stage.

    1. Aren’t they? Apparently those prickles are part of the reason that neither deer nor rabbits bother this Rudbeckia. In fact, some gardening sites suggest planting them precisely to keep the varmints at bay.

    1. For me, it’s partly the chance to see the underlying structure: like seeing bare trees in winter. And they certainly do a good job of spreading that seed — as well as feeding the birds with it.

    1. Flowers got to bloom, and vines got to twine — it’s the way of the world, and all we have to do is open our eyes to see what they’ve been up to!

    1. Thanks, Susan. Even as some of these Rudbeckias were declining, others were forming buds, ready to extend their summer color for a few more weeks.

    1. Last night I met a new customer for the first time, and while we were engaged in the getting-to-know-you chitchat, we discovered we’re almost exactly the same age: seventy-four. We grinned and congratulated each other on still being alive and engaged with the world, despite the fact that we’re not blooming quite as beautifully as we did a half-century ago!

    1. I agree: there is an air of confidence about her, and maybe a bit of pride, too. After all, despite her age, she’s still performing the important function of supporting that vine.

  4. It almost looks like a fight between two monsters. The seed head has an interesting texture and pattern, and that red vine looks downright octopoid.

    1. I’m sure now that the red vine is mustang grape. There were vines in the trees down the road a bit, and I’ve learned that they’ll spread along the ground until they find something to climb. This one’s not going to climb very high, but it knows that “up” is the direction it should go.

  5. An exquisitely simple and beautiful photograph.

    The final stages of a plant’s life.

    Or – metaphors abound for the imaginative. Is the dying flower supporting the vine or vice versa? As we humans reach a certain age (I can see the signposts already) do we continue to offer support to our children or is it vice versa? Did the grasping vine choke poor Susan causing her early demise? Have architects, engineers or artists seen this design in nature and copied it for their own purposes?

    For us in the audience, we are thankful you found something appealing one day in South Texas and graciously shared it.

    1. Oh, my. Surely not a floricidal vine! Better to think of flower and vine as a mutual aid society, or BFFs. As for art imitating nature, another reader suggested Tiffany; those curliques certainly have an art nouveau flair to them.

      The photo does tend toward simplicity, even though details abound. I’m glad I’ve developed at least some ability to clear out surrounding plants with my camera. As you well know, the prairie can be a complex and crowded place; being able to highlight one feature like this certainly aids appreciation.

    1. Thank you, Derrick. Even when something catches my eye, I can be surprised by how well it photographs, and how details emerge that I didn’t see at the time.

    1. That vine certainly didn’t waste its opportunity to head ‘up’ as well as ‘out.’ To paraphrase e.e. cummings, the force that drove the flower also drove the vine, in some interesting ways.

    1. And I’m wondering how long it would take for the vine to shrivel and sag if it were cut off from its source of energy. The black-eyed Susan would transfer to a vase well enough, but I fear you’d lose your vine sooner rather than later!

    1. Thanks, Sarah. The energy of plants is an amazing thing to behold. Sometimes they grow so slowly we don’t really notice it, but in the case of tendrils, there’s no mistaking that urge to move out and up.

    1. I thought so. I was in the same spot yesterday, and looked for it, to see how it had developed, but I couldn’t find it. The grasses are taking over now, and are taller than many of the forbs — after only a week!

  6. Our wildflower bed is full of such sights – and since the goldfinches love them we shall leave it all be until at least November (that’s the excuse I use to not clean up the bed anytime soon – ha!).

    1. That’s such a good thing to do — we’ll give you a multitude of gold stars for that one! It’s not only good for the birds’ health, it provides a lot of entertainment. For the most part, goldfinches are better than television.

    1. There’s no end to the pleasing complexities of the natural world. I once knew someone who was nervous around children, especially toddlers. Weird, I know, but that’s how it was. We were standing in line at a coffee shop once when a child neither of us knew came running up and grabbed his legs; you’d have thought he’d been attacked by snakes. In any event, the stem and the vine remind me of that: the frozen, perfectly rigid friend, and the clinging child.

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