California Goldfields

California Goldfields © GBarton

Common Goldfields
Lasthenia californica ssp. californica

Description (Jepson,

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Sunflower Family (Asteraceae)
    • Low-growing annual herb
    • Stems reddish-green 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)
        • 6-16 golden-yellow female (pistillate) ray flowers
        • Numerous bisexual disk flowers, creating a central, golden-yellow dome
      • Phyllaries (vase-like floral bracts, collectively called the involucre) hairy, in 1-2 series (ranks)
      • Ovary inferior (located below other flower parts)
    • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open)
    • Height to 15 in.
    Flower © DSchiel


      • Native to California
        • Grows in grasslands and in open areas of scrub and foothill woodlands, in a variety of different soils, including serpentine
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows in Oregon, Arizona, and New Mexico
      • Grows at elevations to 4,900 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Frequented by numerous insects, including butterflies and moths
          • Nectar source for Bay checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha bayensis)
          • Day-flying moths, such as the small heliothodes (Heliothodes diminutivus) and fairy longhorn moth (Adela trigrapha) are frequently seen nectaring on Edgewood’s goldfields
        • Native people collected the seeds for pinole (Anderson 2005)
          • 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
          • Spanish word, from an Aztec word, pinolli

        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.)
          • Goldfields – can carpet vast areas in 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
            • Plant can vary in height and flower size depending on location and climate
              • On a relatively dry site, such as Edgewood’s serpentine grasslands, goldfields rarely exceed 3 in. tall; in moister sites, plants may reach 10 in.
              • Flowerhead diameter can vary from 0.5 to 1.0 in.
            • 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
            • Edgewood’s goldfields is classified as a subspecies
              • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

            ID Tips

              • May be confused with slender goldfields (L. gracilis)
                • Slender goldfields, except in fruit, are identical in appearance to California goldfields and were only recognized, through genetic studies, as a distinct species in this century
                • Pappus scales (modified sepals that attach to the seed) are distinct, but may be absent
                  • California goldfields’ pappus has 1-7 clear brown, linear scales
                  • Slender goldfields’ pappus has 4 white, flared scales

              At Edgewood

                • Found in serpentine grasslands
                  • See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
                    • Note observations are for Lasthenia californica
                • Flowers March – June

                See General References

                Specific References

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

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

                      Prigge, B.A. and Gibson, A.C. 2013. Lasthenia californica. A Naturalist’s Flora of the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills, California. Web version, hosted at Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. National Park Service. US Department of Interior.

                        Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. 2017. Plant of the Month. California Goldfields.

                          Shapiro, A.M. and Manolis, T.D. 2007. Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. University of California Press, Berkeley – Los Angeles, California.