*What Chaparral isn't:It's not a plant.It's not a herb sold in health food stores (the chaparral sold in stores is actually the leaves from the creosote bush, a desert shrub).It's not a 1960's television show (the High Chaparral television show ran from 1967 - 1971).True chaparral does not exist in Texas.Chaparral doesn't "need" to burn, and it hasn't become overgrown due to past fire suppression.
San Diego 1,003,441Los Angeles 553,789Riverside 499,160Santa Barbara 440,645San Luis Obispo 417,718Monterey 369,345Ventura 326,447 San Bernardino 276,010 San Benito 246,623 Santa Clara 188,427 Orange 111,550 Marin 37,566 San Mateo 36,152 Santa Cruz 32,328
Sclerophyllous leaves are advantageous in a semi-arid climate because they reduce evaporation thorough a variety of traits including waxy coatings, thicker cell layers, and recessed stomata (the pores in leaves permitting evaporation and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide). Chaparral is primarily a California phenomenon, although there are some wonderful chaparral "islands" at higher elevations in parts of Arizona (such as in the Catalina Mountains above Tucson). Chaparral also extends a bit into southern Oregon (notably in the Rogue River Valley) and sparsely south into Baja California. A similar shrubland without the Mediterranean climate, called Petran chaparral, is found in the central Rocky Mountains and Northeastern Mexico.
Although the largest and most pristine stands of chaparral occur in California between 500 to 4,500 feet in elevation, smaller patches exist along the coast. Stands of red shanks chaparral can found at 7,000 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County. If there is one defining characteristic of nearly all chaparral, it is the presence of chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), the ecosystem's most pervasive shrub.
We have identified the primary chaparral types found in California, based on dominant shrub species, geography, or soil type in which it occurs. Enjoy exploring them through our Chaparral Types page.
*The 5 Mediterranean regions with their characteristic shrublands are California (chaparral), central Chile (matorral), South Africa (fynbos), southwestern Australia (kwongan healthlands and a Eucalyptus shrub-dominated habitat called mallee), and the Mediterranean basin (maquis, and a less dense version, garigue, a on poor, limestone soils). Although each native shrubland is unique in its own special way, each have a similar appearance. So, when a southern Californian visits Spain or France, the surrounding shrubby terrain feels a lot like home.