Cooper goldenbush: Ericameria cooperi, Asteraceae (sunflower family)
I'm a little bit of a procrastinator. I tend to always leave one dish in the sink after doing all the other dishes. I put most of my clean clothes away, but usually leave a couple articles in the basket until I do laundry again. I don't know why, but this reminds me of the multi-day process (going on weeks) it's taken to get this one identified. I had it pretty much in the bag, but every day on my walks, I would grab new samples and compar them to all the other dozens of Ericameria species. While working on whatever other plant I was featuring, I would continually toggle back to "make sure" this was Cooper goldenbush. I tried to key it out on Jepson, but because there are so many species and fine-line parameters for this one, I found I didn't have the proper tools, namely magnification. The flower head is only 3-5mm wide, and consists of anywhere between 4 and 12 disc flowers within that space. And to properly key it out, I needed to get precision readings on stigmas and styles and phyllaries....which even with the microscope I did eventually borrow from a friend, were impossible for me to differentiate, as I really don't even know what I'm looking for. I commend the internet for being able to explain various botanical terms to the laymen, but this stuff is complicated. I don't know if I even know how my own reproductive organs work.
So after revisiting this one for the umpteenth time, I decided to trust what I did know, which is that, of the spring budding ericamerias within this region, this was the only one that created a full picture. I was thrown off because supposedly resin glands are visible with the naked eye. I couldn't find them, but the leaf itself is a little tacky and shiny, and with a special lens, I could see the pitted glands. So, to the best of my knowledge, this is Cooper goldenbush. I don't think it has any human applications, but it smells nice, so I may see if it can be safely ingested. Or I may just finish that last dish in the sink.