Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Chamise

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Chamise
Scientific Name:Adenostoma fasciculatum
Family:Rosaceae (Rose)
Plant Type:Shrub
Size:up to 10 feet
Habitat:dry slopes in Chaparral and Sage Scrub
Blooms:February to September
Fire Response:Stump Sprout or Seed

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 because it is well adapted.

Chamise has a strong basal burl and peeling, reddish brown bark. The short needle-like leaf clusters/bundles on this plant conserve moisture and remain green throughout the summer - they are evergreen. Look carefully and note that the clusters alternate on the branches. Leaves are hard, thick and leathery to limit loss of water thru evaporation. 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. Chamise is a member of the Rose family. There are 5 petals and 15 stamens (5 groups of 3 stamens). Note: Red Shank has 10 Stamems (five groups of two.)

This plant is both hardy to fire, owing to its strong basal burl, and susceptible 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 derived from a Latin word meaning "bundles" and describing the way the leaves are attached to the leaf stem in little bunches or 'fascicles.'.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Chamise - Originally featured: July 2012
Last modified: March 22 2020 20:34:51.
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves