Another bright yellow wildflower that forms large masses of flowers atop Lower Table Rock near Medford Or (Jackson County) in the spring is spring gold (Crocidium multicaule). Like California goldfields (Lasthenia californica), spring gold is usually a small plant. Both are members of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae) and have single, terminal, radiate flower heads. Although superficially both plants look similar, there are several field markers to distinguish these two wildflowers.
Spring gold flowers earlier in the spring than California gold. Spring gold appears as early as late January and is beyond its prime before California goldfields bloom in March and April. Their habitat is also different with spring gold preferring dry open soils while California goldfields are found in wetter soils and vernal pools. As seen in these early April photographs, the carpet of California goldfields contrasts with the few remaining spring gold plants.
Spring gold has a basal rosette of leaves while California goldfields only has cauline leaves.
California goldfields leaves are opposite while the cauline spring gold leaves are alternate.
Spring gold stems are glabrous (no hairs) except for tufts of hairs in the leaf axils. California goldfields stems are hairy.
The phyllaries of California goldfields are hairy and not fused at the base,
while spring gold phyllaries are hairless and fused at the base.
The lovely masses of yellow flowers Leonard and I saw atop Lower Table Rock in early April were California goldfields. Had we sauntered to the top of Lower Table Rock earlier in the year, carpets of spring gold may have greeted us.
More information about both these species can be found in my earlier posts: