Lasthenia californica (Goldfields); Photo by Elgin Kennedy and Frances Morse

Scientific Name: Lasthenia californica.  The name Lasthenia was first applied to a plant found in Chile by botanist Cassini in 1834. He offered no explanation why he chose this name, but it probably honors Lasthenia of Mantinea, a Grecian woman philosopher who studied with Plato in the 300s B.C. Lasthenia californica has had other scientific names in the past: Baeria chrysostoma in 1836, then Baeria gracilis, then Lasthenia chrysostoma. By the time The Jepson Manual of California plants was published in 1993, Baeria and Lasthenia had been lumped together into the Lasthenia genus.

Family Name: Goldfields is in the Sunflower Family which is also sometimes referred to as the Daisy Family or the Aster Family. In this family of plants the flower heads are not a single flower, but each flower head is composed of a collection of many flowers. Broadly speaking, there are three types of flowers in this family: those with both ray flowers and disk flowers, those with ray flowers only (e.g. the Dandelion), and those with disk flowers only (e.g. the Thistles). Goldfields are in the first group, having both ray and disk flowers. The ray flowers occupy the margins of the flower head, while the much smaller disk flowers occupy the center.

Description: On a relatively dry site such as Edgewood, Goldfields do not get much more than three inches tall. In more moist sites the plants can get up to nine or ten inches tall.  Leaves are opposite, simple, and linear.  Flower heads have both ray and disk flowers and are golden-yellow.  For more, see Jepson’s eFlora description.

Notes: On Edgewood Natural Preserve, Goldfields are one of the earliest flowers to bloom. A single blooming plant is inconspicuous; but, when hundreds of these plants bloom at the same time, a very large, bright, golden-yellow carpet appears in the grassy fields.
On early California playing cards, the Jack of Spades always held one of these flowers in his hand.

Finding it at Edgewood: Goldfields bloom from March to June in serpentine grasslands.  Look for them along the Serpentine Loop and on the Edgewood Trail between Canada Road and I-280.  You’ll also see them along parts of the Franciscan Trail.  See map below.

Goldfields (Lasthenia californica) distribution at Edgewood
Lasthenia californica distribution at Edgewood

Corelli, T. Flowering Plants of Edgewood Natural Preserve. Half Moon Bay, CA: Monocot Press, 2004.
“Common Native Wildflowers of Edgewood” published jointly by the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and Friends of Edgewood Natural Preserve.

Information compiled by Ted Cruze and Anna Lee