What Chaparral isn't: It's not a plant.It's not a herb sold in health food stores (the chaparral sold in bottles is actually crushed leaves from the creosote bush, a desert shrub).It's not a 1960's television show (the High Chaparral ran from 1967 - 1971).Chaparral doesn't "need" to burn, and it hasn't become overgrown due to past fire suppression. It's not found outside North America (see world map below).
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 (extends a bit into southern Oregon, notably in the Rogue River Valley, and sparsely south into Baja California). There are also some wonderful chaparral "islands" at higher elevations in parts of Arizona (such as in the Catalina Mountains above Tucson). A similar shrubland without the Mediterranean climate, called Petran chaparral, is found in the central Rocky Mountains and Northeastern Mexico. Chaparral-like shrublands that have several shrubs in common with California chaparral (i.e., manzanita and ceanothus species) are located in west Texas and along the eastern sides of the mountains in central Mexico. Although the largest and most pristine stands of chaparral occur in California between 500 to 4,500 feet in elevation, beautiful stands also exist along the coast. 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 on our Chaparral Types page.