A long, wet winter has advantages. After several years of drought, Leonard and I are seeing and enjoying an unusual abundance of wildflowers.
Although one must look in and around the sagebrush on the slopes near the Pronghorn Parking Lot at Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA) to find most of the small wildflowers, the dense populations of spring gold (Crocidium multicaule) are putting on a spectacular display of bright color visible from a distance.
Spring gold, also commonly known as gold star and gold fields, is a native annual that inhabits dry open sites and grasslands at low to mid elevations in California, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.
A small, slender plant seldom more than 6″ tall, spring gold has one or more erect stems arising from a small rosette of basal leaves. The cauline (stem) leaves are alternate with tufts of hairs at the axils. These woolly hairs in the leaf axils give spring gold its genus name, Crocidium, from the Greek “crocid” meaning “a loosely woven cloth” or “woolen”.
A member of the Aster Family (Sunflower Family), spring gold has a daisy-like appearance. Central, yellow disc flowers are surrounded by 8 to 13 golden yellow ray flowers. A single row of long, linear bracts completes the flower head.
The fruits are light brown achenes (single, hard, dry seeds) topped by white pappi (feathery bristles). When wet the achenes turn gluey.
The expanses of bright, yellow spring gold are a welcome sight after too many dreary, grey days.