It's the Plants, Darling

Susans – lazy victims of domestic violence?

Rudbeckia400
Okay, I admit the burden that Susans bear is no big deal – compared to, say, an American politician having the middle name Hussein.  Or my own mother being saddled with the name Orpha, which is why she gave her kids super-common, nonembarassing names, like Susan. 

But what are Susans known for in the gardening world?  Having a black eye, of course.  And indoors the lazy-person’s dining table helper is the Lazy Susan.  I wonder, what’s the story behind that little slur?

At least I finally know the origin of the name Black-eyed Susan, because it’s explained in this wonderful article about them in Floridata, sent to me by Floridata contributor Ginny Stibolt.

Seems that the colonists sent at least one of these native American species back to England, where the Old English poet John Gay used the term "black-eyed susan" to describe it in a poem, which reminds me of Kurt Bluemel’s story about American plants going to Europe to pick up a pedigree.  (Though still, why not Black-eyed Gertrude?)  Then Linneaus gave it the Latin name Rudbeckia to honor one of his teachers, Olof Rudbeck the Younger.  (That guy had so much naming to do, I bet even his second cousins all got their own plants.)

The Floridata article also gives Maryland its due, since this IS our state flower.  Who cares about the Run for the Roses when you’ve got the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans right here?   

Posted by on October 21, 2008 at 5:18 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling.
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2 responses to “Susans – lazy victims of domestic violence?”

  1. weeder1 says:

    My poor mom got saddled with the name Perpetua. Perpetua Bernadine no less. No wonder she went by Thommie her whole adult life. (Thomas being her maiden name)Gee, Black-eyed Perpetua is kinda catchy!

  2. I used to get so angry at my grandmother when she would point out “black-eyed susans” along the road–I thought she was teasing me about my own name!

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