checker (or western or bristly) fiddleneck
aka devil’s lettuce
After looking at so many cryptanthas, I was sure that’s what this had to be. There are two yellow-flowering cryptanthas, this must be one of them, right?
Nope. It is in the borage family, though, so it’s not too distantly related. It’s an annual, with a range north and west from New Mexico into British Columbia, and, strangely, Missouri.
I thought I was done with this, then stumbled across references to other Amsinckia species. There are eleven species, about eight of which are in Death Valley. Not nearly as tricky to identify as the cryptanthas, but not so straightforward, either. It’s possible that the species pictured here is actually A. menziesii var. intermedia. I’m guessing it isn’t, though, based on my principle “when in doubt, choose the common one over the rare one.” To confuse matters a little more (because that’s what taxonomy does), I think this is A. tessellata var. tessellata, rather than the less common variety gloriosa.