by Eleanor Dietrich
These flowers (Rudbeckia graminifolia) may look like black dots on tall stalks as they grow and bloom in the damp open roadside ditches and savannas in our area. But it you look more closely, you will see what looks like a fringe of dark red petals at the base of the flower. Actually, what look like petals are also flowers – ray flowers. This plant is in the Aster or Composite Family, and members of this family generally have many small individual flowers that are clustered together to look like one flower. The individual flowers are of two types – tubular disk flowers in the center (which usually form seeds) and ray flowers surrounding the disk flowers; ray flowers usually look like petals. As the flower continues to bloom the disk flowers will begin to open showing their yellow pistils and stamens as you can see here. Most flowers are designed by nature to attract pollinators, so they can be pollinated and produce seeds for the next generation of flowers. They bloom from May through August or September.