Common Goldfields

Goldfields © GBarton

Slender Goldfields, Needle Goldfields
Lasthenia gracilis

Description (Jepson,

  • Eudicotyledon
    • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
  • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
  • Low-growing annual herb
  • Stems may be branched and sometimes hairy
  • Leaves
    • Opposite (2 leaves at each junction with stem) and linear
    • Sometimes hairy
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a solitary radiate head (see Sunflower family)
      • 6-13 golden-yellow female (pistillate) ray flowers
      • Many bisexual disk flowers, creating a central, golden-yellow dome
    • 4-13 hairy phyllaries (vase-like floral bracts, collectively called an involucre), usually in 1 series (rank)
    • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is an achene (a single seeded, dry fruit that does not split open)
    • If present, pappus (modified sepals, outer flower parts) of usually 4 opaque, white, flared scales
  • Height to 15 in.


  • Native to California
    • Grows in almost all habitats and soils, predominantly open areas
    • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
  • Outside California, grows in central Arizona and into Baja California, Mexico
  • Grows at elevations to 4,900 ft.

Uses (San Mateo County Parks prohibits removal of any natural material)

  • Wildlife
    • Frequented by numerous insects, including butterflies and moths
      • Nectar source for Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis)
      • Day-flying moths, e.g. small heliothodes (Heliothodes diminutivus) and fairy longhorn moth (Adela trigrapha), are frequently seen nectaring on Edgewood’s goldfields
      • Known pollinators are solitary bees, bee flies, and small flies, such as gnats
      • Seeds collected and eaten by harvester ants (Montalvo 2018)
  • Native people
    • Collected goldfields (Lasthenia species) seeds for pinole (Lowry 2014)
      • Pinole is a general term for various flours made from the ground, toasted seeds of wildflowers and grasses, eaten dry or moistened and shaped into balls or cakes (Anderson 2005)
      • “Pinole” is a Hispanic version of an Aztec word

Name Derivation

  • Lasthenia (las-THEE-nee-a) – applied to a plant found in Chile, in 1834, by botanist Henri Cassini in honor of Lasthenia of Mantinea, a Greek philosopher who dressed as a man in order to attend Plato’s Academy (4th century B.C.)
  • gracilis (gra-SIL-is) – from the Latin gracieux, meaning “graceful” or “slender”
  • Goldfields – goldfields can carpet vast areas with golden flowers
    • As with “tidy-tips,” this name can be singular or plural


  • Generally self-sterile (cannot be fertilized by its own pollen)
  • Occasionally, petals will be two-toned, with lighter yellow at petal tips
  • Early Spanish-Californian playing cards featured the jack of spades holding a goldfields (Parsons 1966)
    • Flower was called “Si me quieres, no me quieres” (“Love me, love me not”), as young women used it to predict their romantic fortunes
  • Common goldfields has only in this century been recognized as a distinct species (Montalvo 2018)
    • Common goldfields, except in fruit, are identical in appearance to the California goldfields subspecies L. californica ssp. californica
      • Genetic studies have shown common goldfields to be a cryptic species, one nearly identical in morphology to another conventionally-recognized species
    • Distribution of common goldfields (L. gracilis) and California goldfields (L. californica) overlaps in northern California
      • California goldfields is a northern California species
      • Common goldfields is predominately a southern California species, but its range extends into northern California, and it is the most commonly-found goldfields species in the state

ID Tips

  • May be confused with California goldfields (L. californica ssp. californica)
    • Pappus scales (modified sepals that attach to the seed) are distinct, but may be absent
      • Common goldfields’ pappus has 4 white, opaque, flared scales
      • California goldfields’ pappus has 1-7 translucent brown, linear, bristle-tipped scales

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands
    • See iNaturalist for observations of Lasthenia species
  • Flowers March – June

See General References

Specific References

Anderson, M.K. 2005. Tending the Wild. University of California, Berkeley.

Lowry, J.L. 2014. California Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Evergreen Huckleberry to Wild Ginger. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

Montalvo, A.M., E.C. Riordan, and J.L. Beyers. 2018. Plant profile for Lasthenia californica and L. gracilis. Native Plant Recommendations for Southern California Ecoregions. Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District and United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, California.

Parsons, M.E. 1966 ed. (1897). The Wildflowers of California. Dover Publications, New York.