Chamise is one of the key members of the Chaparral plant community and also important for its fire-survival strategies. It is most abundant on south-facing slopes where many other plants cannot survive, where it thrives due to the lack of competition.
Chamise has a strong basal burl and peeling, reddish brown bark. The short needle-like leaf clusters on this plant conserve moisture and remain green throughout the summer. Clusters of white flowers appear along the ends of branches, each flower about 1/4 inch or less in diameter. The flowers bloom from April to June before giving way to brown seed vessels.
This plant is both hardy to fire, owing to its strong basal burl, and succeptible to catching and spreading fire because of its dry branches and resinous wood. This second characteristic earns it its common names Greasewood and Chamise, the latter coming from Chama which means "flame" in Portuguese. In addition to its base, the plant can also recover by seed after a fire.
The genus name Adenostoma refers to the plant's having glands at the mouths of the flower sepals. The species name fasciculatum means "needle-like", referring to the leaves.