Monday, April 6, 2015


Lasthenia, spp.

Goldfields: photo by Cliff Hutson

The color theorist Josef Albers (1888 – 1976) remarked that, “. . . the nomenclature of color is most inadequate. Though there are innumerable colors - shades and tones - in daily vocabulary, there are only about 30 color names.” Therefore, in a departure for from my usual commentary when describing wildflowers, I am not going to quibble about the name of this month’s plant; and instead just revel in its beauty. Goldfields in large populations, growing from one to two feet in height, can bloom at once in the spring producing the carpets of yellow on hillsides and in meadows that lend the plant its common name. However, in the days of the Californios, young women knew it as si me quieres, no me quieres (love me , love me not), using its petals as petals of daisies are used.

Lasthenia is a genus of the family Asteraceae. As a member of the sunflower family, each flowerhead is actually made up of many individual yellow flowers. The 7 - 15 outer ray flowers look like petals while the numerous inner disk flowers are tiny and shaped like a tube.The genus is named named for the Athenian girl Lasthenia who dressed as a boy in order to attend Plato's classes.  It has been noted that this genera is plastic and difficult to really separate. Many species names have been applied and it can be confusing.

When I took the accompanying photograph, I identified it as L. glabrata, or yellow rayed goldfields. It is endemic to California, where it is a resident of vernal pools and other moist areas in a number of habitat types. The epitaph “glabrata” means somewhat glabrous, I.e., free from hair or down; smooth. I don’t see any in hairs in the photo, that is my story and I am sticking to it. 

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