Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Rudbeckial Ruminations

Jack Ray introduced us to the joys of eating a new wild green.  Rudbeckia lanciniata is prolific along the low riparian areas of Bull Mills, lush, green and knee high.  It is described as a perennial subshrub or forb/herb, also known by the common names tall coneflower, cutleaf, cutleaf coneflower, goldenglow, green-headed coneflower, and thimbleweed.  It was a favored green by the Cherokee, known as Sochan.*
from Wikimedia


After harvesting leaves
R. lanciniata is a member of the Asteraceae family, related to the daisy and sunflower, and can grow up to 10 feet tall.  The dramatic July to September blossoms, look like a cross between our gray headed coneflower and a sunflower, and has been bred into several commercial varieties for gardens and flower arrangements. Traditionally the plant was used to treat indigestion, burns, and other ailments.

Missouriplants has a good description with pictures from 2003.  It raises a question of toxicity but other reputable sources such as the USDA list it as non-toxic.



Although some sources report using it in salads, it is usually used as a potherb.  R. lanciniata  can be cooked similar to spinach without the bitterness.  Barb boiled it briefly, rinsed it off and cooked it like any other green in butter, olive oil or a touch of the kitchen essential, bacon grease.  It has the distinction of being the only cooked leafy green that I have had a complete second helping of.  Next time, maybe throw in some onion?

We aren't the only creatures enjoying this nutritious plant.**  The nectar and pollen of the flowerheads attract many kinds of insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, predatory wasps, butterflies, skippers, moths, and various kinds of flies.  It is a larval host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly (Chlosyne nycteis) and the Wavy-Lined Emerald moth (Synchlora aerata) as well as other insects.  The common gold finch eats its seeds. 

Silvery Checkerspot - Wikimedia
 Wavy-lined emerald - Tom Murray






 
Emerald moth caterpillar - Kevin Firth
The Wavy-Lined Emerald moth  has another claim to fame.  Its caterpillar is the one we described last year as covering itself with plant parts as camouflage, although I prefer to think it simply has a wild sense of fashion.  See this past blog for more information.

*      Christine Chiu, Master Naturalist and Gardener, was "botanizing" with us Saturday, she immediately recognized this as a plant she had been reading about.  She introduced us to the name sochan and sent this great link on growing it.
**    illinoiswildflowers.info 

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