One of the earliest spring wildflowers, appearing near Crystal and Baum Lakes (Shasta County CA) is cutleaf cinquefoil (Potentilla millefolia). While the landscape remains brown and grey, these bits of bright yellow are, for me, a harbinger of warm weather to come. I eagerly watch for them each spring.
Cutleaf cinquefoil is a basal rosette of leaves arising from a taproot. The stems are decumbent. The herbage is strigose (hairy). The pinnate basal leaves have pairs of overlapping leaflets that are nearly divided to the base. There are few cauline (stem) leaves. The flowers, located at the stem tops, have five bright yellow petals, longer than the sepals, and up to 20 stamens. A distinguishing characteristic of Potentilla are small bractlets alternating with sepals.
Cutleaf cinquefoil is a native perennial belonging to the rose family. Growing in moist grassy places and vernal meadows from 2,000′ to 6,000′, cutleaf cinquefoil is found in Oregon, Nevada and eastern California. It can tolerate alkaline soils.
Cutleaf cinquefoil is also commonly knows as many leaf cinquefoil and feather cinquefoil.
I had difficulty identifying this wildflower. Thanks to Edith and Barbara at the Jepson Herbarium (Berkeley CA) for their assistance.