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Nature Notes: Come eye to eye with a giant

Nature Notes: Come eye to eye with a giant

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We asked our friends at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to spotlight something fascinating at ground level. Beth Monroe takes on a tall order.

Giant coneflower

To the max: Looking like a black-eyed Susan on steroids, giant coneflower (Rudbeckia maxima) can grow to heights of 5 to 7 feet. And the width of the base can spread to 3 or 4 feet.

All about that base: This summer-blooming perennial wildflower is also known as cabbage leaf coneflower, as the blue-green basal leaves are paddle-shaped and resemble a cabbage.

Tall, dark and handsome: Showy, golden blooms have slightly drooping petals with a tall, dark, central cone that is 2 to 6 feet tall.

Wild thing: Giant coneflower’s native habitat includes open wooded areas, moist prairies, pastures and even roadsides in the central and Southern U.S. It is a bold plant best suited to groupings of three or more, or in mass plantings for wildlife gardens and meadows.

Two words: Low maintenance, as in giant coneflower likes full sun and will tolerate some drought. It also has no serious disease problems and is unpalatable to deer.

Making the cut? Giant coneflower is a good option for cutting and drying, but be sure to leave some of the flowers for the butterflies, bees and birds. Goldfinches especially love the seeds.

What’s at stake: Heavy rain or strong wind occasionally might cause some of the tall stems to flop over, but these can be easily staked.

Name game: For the scientific name Rudbeckia maxima, the genus honors 17th- and 18th-century Swedish botanist Olof Rudbeck. Considering the plant's height, the species term "maxima" is self-evident!

You can come eye to eye with giant coneflower along the edge of Lake Sydnor at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For more about other native plants and trees, visit lewisginter.org.

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