California Goldfields

Goldfields © GBarton

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 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)
      • 6-16 golden-yellow female (pistillate) ray flowers
      • Numerous bisexual disk flowers, creating a central, golden-yellow dome
    • 4-16 hairy phyllaries (vase-like floral bracts, collectively called an involucre), in 1-2 series (ranks)
    • 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 1-7 translucent, brown, linear, bristle-tipped scales
  • 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 (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.)
  • 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
  • Edgewood’s other goldfields species, common goldfields (L. gracilis), has only in this century been recognized as distinct from California goldfields (Montalvo 2018)
    • California and common goldfields, except in fruit, are identical in appearance
      • Genetic studies have shown common goldfields to be a cryptic species, one nearly identical in morphology to another conventionally-recognized species
    • Distribution of California goldfields and common goldfields 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
  • Edgewood’s California goldfields is classified as a subspecies
    • Subspecies indicates a geographically-separated population with distinct morphological characteristics; when not isolated, interbreeding is possible
    • Variety indicates a population with small morphological variations, e.g. color, seen throughout the geographic range of the species; interbreeding is possible
    • In practice, botanists have not consistently applied these ranks

ID Tips

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

At Edgewood

  • Found in serpentine and non-serpentine grasslands
    • See iNaturalist for observations of Lasthenia californica
  • 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.

Prigge, B.A. and A.C. Gibson. 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. United States Department of Interior, National Park Service. 

Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council. 2017. California Goldfields.

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