Mediterranean Garden Society

A Gallery of Chaparral

The photograph at the top of this page shows Ceanothus thrysiflorus in bloom (photo Yvonne Barton)

Ann Semaan Beisch lives and gardens in Southern California where she supports water-sustainable landscaping, for which an understanding of the native flora is fundamental. She writes:  

“The Matoral encompasses the breath of Mediterranean wild shrub-land around the world. In California this is called chaparral. The vegetation of this shrub-lands is mostly leathery, broad-leaved evergreen shrubs often aromatic and hearty.

The word chaparral comes from the Spanish word, chaparro, which means, evergreen oak shrub-land. Ten percent of the total vegetation in the state is chaparral with most concentrated in Southern California.

In this gallery we try to capture the star performers of the chaparral landscape. Fragrant flowering red and white, Hot Lips, Salvia microphylla, a small leaf, evergreen shrub is one of the many Lamiacaea family natives that greets us every spring.

California Buckeye, Aesculus californica, pink flowering Manzanita, Arctostaphylos manzanita, and Sugarbush, Rhus ovata, thickly cascade along our canyon slopes and trails. Rubbing the dark green, dense, small leaves of these evergreen bushes between my fingers, releases sharp scents of mint, spice and apple. The Sugarbush grows so dense and tangled that it literally would ‘take the shirt off your back’ if crawled under.

California Buckeye, Aesculus californica

California buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum and the fragrant California sagebrush, Artemisia californica, fill hillsides throughout the area.

The California buckeye, Aesculus californica, grow along the public trails and fields, and are examples of relatively small chaparral trees or unruly large shrubs. California chaparral also includes thick limbed Hollyleaf cherry, Prunus ilicifolia, California fuchsia, Epilobium canum, and the ever present Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, with its deep dark red branches and small pink flowers.

In the spring the California Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa, with its bright yellow single stem flowers bloom in vast spaces.

Our chaparral is a special landscape and experience of compact, fragrant, almost impenetrable tangles of limbs and thorns, flowers and fruit.”

California Sugar Bush (Rhus ovata) and Chaparral Terrain

For more on this topic see Ann’s article on Winter in a Chaparral Garden published in The Mediterranean Garden No. 96, April 2019.

If you have any questions or comments, bring them to the MGS Forum. Click or tap on pictures to enlarge.

Photos by Ann Semaan Beisch, unless stated otherwise.

  • Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’

  • Arctostaphylos manzanita

  • Rhus ovata

  • Eriogonum fasciculatum

  • Encelia farinosa

  • Fremontodendron californicum

  • Rhus integrifolia

  • Aesculus californica

  • Epilobium canum

  • Heteromeles arbutifolia

  • Prunus ilicifolia

  • Artemisia californica

  • Ceanothus thrysiflorus

  • Ceanothus megacarpus

  • Ceanothus crassifolius

  • Salvia apiana

  • Salvia mellifera

  • Salvia clevelandii

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