|Blossoms of chamise, tiny but exquisite|
Right now the chaparral slopes are highlighted like one of those museum displays where you push the button to light up something on a map.
|Chamise-chaparral slope near my home. It is facing south, and you can see a north-facing slope in the distance, covered by mixed evergreen forest|
That's because all the south-facing slopes are covered in a pale cream sheen of chaparral blossoms. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, they blossom in May.
The type of chaparral we have here is known as chamise chaparral. It's the most common type of chaparral in California. As you might guess, the main component of this type of chaparral is chamise, Adenostoma fasciculatum.
Lots of other chaparral shrubs and small trees make up the mix, like manzanita, toyon, coyote bush, coffee-berry, and more. At this time of year, though, you wouldn't know it.
I recommend a set of gorgeous chamise photos by Pete Veilleux, which you can view here: Adenostoma fasciculatum - Chamise.
Pretty as it is, I have mixed feelings about chamise, which is also known as "grease-wood."
That's because of its known high flammability, combined with its proximity to my home, and other homes in these here hills.
In fact chamiso is Spanish for firewood!
So every couple of years, when I do my summer chaparral thinning and dead-wood removal tasks, I single out the chamise for coppicing. Chamise is a stump (or burl) sprouter, so I'm not killing it. Its roots stabilize the slope. And I also enjoy its fresh green growth -- which in May is covered with wonderful tiny creamy flowers that the bees feast upon.
Maybe I should do as the Native Americans did -- use the tough hardwood that I cut for making tools. Native people made clam-gathering sticks, arrow shafts, digging and reaming tools from the wood. * I wonder what I could make from it?
|The Latin species name, fasciculatum, was given because the needle like leaves sprout in bundles, or fascicles.|
Besides, it wouldn't be much of a chamise chaparral without any chamise, now, would it?
* Plants of San Luis Obispo, Matt Ritter. Kendall/Hunt, 2006.