California Goldfields - Lasthenia californica - Asteraceae
Carpeting the hills in a spectacular golden-yellow, California goldfields are aptly named. Found in the region nearest the Sierras, these tiny annual sunflowers are one of the most prolific of the desert annuals. When I first encountered them, as I walked through a sea of flowers, I found my boots and pants turned yellow from the vast amounts of pollen they produced. This is a key to the plant's survival strategy: be as fecund as possible. Each individual plant puts almost nothing into its stem and root system. Instead, it focuses on its flowerhead, which, when pollinated, will produce many dozens of seeds. It is this devotion to prolific reproduction that makes the goldfields differ from the perennials of the region, which focus on building a tough, sturdy body for themselves.