Helianthus californicus, known by the common name California sunflower, is native to California and Baja California in Mexico, where it grows in many types of habitats.
It has an erect perennial herb growing from a network of tough, woody roots with small rhizomes. It is a sprawling, gangly plant, sending a thin stem to heights between one and three meters (3-10 feet) or more. The lance-shaped leaves may be 20 centimeters (8 inches) long and are smooth or slightly toothed along the edges.
The inflorescence holds several flower heads. Each head is supported by a base covered in long, pointed phyllaries that bend back as the head ages and develops fruit. The flower head has a fringe of golden yellow ray florets, each two or three centimeters (0.8-1.2 inches) long, and a center filled with curly yellow and brown disc florets. The achene is about half a centimeter (1.25 inches) long.