Chamise

Chamise © KKorbholz

Greasewood
Adenostoma fasciculatum var. fasciculatum
NATIVE

Description (Jepson, PlantID.net)

    • Eudicotyledon
      • Eudicots are a major lineage of flowering plants; see family for general characteristics
    • Rose Family (Rosaceae)
    • Evergreen shrub that is diffusely branched and resinous
    • Bark becomes gray and shreds with age
    • Leaves
      • Small, hard, and needle-like
      • Bright green and shiny with pungent volatile oils
      • Clustered along the stems
    • Flowers
      • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) is a panicle (a many-branching, loose flower cluster) at the branch tips
      • Many tiny, white, 5-petaled, tubular flowers
      • Ovary inferior (below the attachment of other flower parts)
    • Fruit is an achene (a single-seeded, dry fruit that does not split open)
    • Height to 13 ft.
    • Can live 100-200 years

    Distribution

      • Native to California
        • Grows in chaparral, and as an understory shrub in woodlands
        • 50-54% of plants occur on serpentine (ultramafic) soils; see Serpentine affinity rankings (Calfora per Safford and Miller 2020)
        • See Calflora for statewide observations of this plant
      • Outside California, grows in Oregon, Nevada, and northern Baja California, Mexico
      • Grows at elevations to 5,000 ft.

      Uses (Picking or removing any natural material from public land is illegal)

        • Serves as hiding, resting, and nesting sites for many smaller birds and mammals
        • Tender young plant sprouts browsed by deer
        • Larval shrub for the echo blue butterfly (Celastrina ladon echo)
        • Native people and Spanish-Mexicans had multiple uses for chamise:
          • Decoction of leaves and branches to treat infections and inflammation
          • Traditional remedy for colds, convulsions, snake bites, cramps, and lockjaw
          • Branches used to build ramadas and fences, for basketry and firewood, and bound together for torches
          • A binding agent for arrows and baskets was made from scale insects found on chamise plants

        Name Derivation

          • Adenostoma (ad-en-OS-to-ma) – from the Greek adena, “gland,” and stoma, “mouth,” referring to glands at the mouth of the sepals (usually green, outer flower parts)
          • fasciculatum (fa-sik-yoo-LAY-tum) – from the Latin fascis, “a bundle,” referring to the fascicled (tightly clustered) leaf arrangement
          • Chamise – from the Spanish chamisa, “dry brush” or “firewood”
          Flowers (L), Leaves (R)
          © DSchiel (L), TCorelli (R)

          Notes

            • Chamise is the predominant shrub of California chaparral
              • Chaparral refers to evergreen shrub and small tree communities that grow on shallow, rocky, nutrient-poor soils in Mediterranean climates, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers
              • Chaparral shrubs, like chamise, are examples of sclerophyllous (“hard-leaf”) vegetation, with leaves that conserve water by being
                • Thick and leathery, with extra lignin (structural component that stiffens plant tissue) to prevent wilting
                • Waxy, with a thick cuticle that reduces transpiration
                • Densely organized, occurring at short distance along the stem, thus increasing local humidity
                • Usually small and oriented parallel or oblique to direct sunlight, reducing surface exposure
              • Volatile oils of chamise leaves also help preserve moisture, as well as deter herbivory
                • These oils, also present in the branches and trunks of chamise, increase the intensity of chaparral fires
            • Can form dense monotypic stands and be dominant on the hottest, driest locations
            • Dense nature of growth and accumulation of water-soluble phenolics (allelopathic toxins) from the leaves inhibit germination and understory growth of other species
            • Develops an extensive root system
              • Multiple taproots can penetrate fractured rock to depths of 10-12 ft.
            • Chamise is well adapted to fire and regenerates quickly from the root crown and dormant seeds
              • Fire stimulates growth from the lignotuber, a woody swelling at the base of the shrub that provides fire-resistant storage of energy and sprouting buds
              • Fire also stimulates the germination of dormant seeds that have built up in the soil
                • Over 90% of dormant seeds will germinate in the first year after a fire
                • Seeds are fire facultative, not fire obligate, meaning that fire can stimulate, but is not necessary, for germination
                • Some seeds will germinate without fire, but the one-year survival rate for seedlings is extremely low without a gap in the canopy
            • Edgewood’s chamise is classified as a variety
              • Subspecies rank is used to recognize geographic distinctiveness, whereas variety rank is appropriate for variants seen throughout the geographic range of the species; in practice, these two ranks are not distinct

            ID Tips

              At Edgewood

                • Found in chaparral
                  • See iNaturalist for observations of this plant
                    • Note observations are for Adenostoma fasciculatum
                • Flowers May – July

                See General References

                Specific References

                  Biological Sciences Santa Barbara City College. 2010. Biology 100 Adenostoma fasciculatum Chamise.

                    CAB International. Data Sheet: Adenostoma fasciculatum (chamise). Invasive Species Compendium.

                      McMurray, N.E. 2018. Adenostoma fasciculatum. Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.

                        Montalvo, A.M., et al. 2017. Plant Profile for Adenostoma fasciculatum. Native Plant Recommendations for Southern California Ecoregions. Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Riverside, California.

                          Safford, H.D. and Miller, J.E.D. 2020. An Updated Database of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora. [manuscript accepted by] Madrono, California Botanical Society, Northridge, California.

                            Shapiro, A.M. and Manolis, T.D. 2007. Field Guide to Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions. University of California Press, Berkeley – Los Angeles, California.