Chamise

Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) comes from the Spanish word chamisa and means “dry brush” or “firewood”. Because chamise is one of the most flammable plants growing in California, this common name is very appropriate. Other colloquially names for A fasciculatum are huutah and greasewood.

An evergreen shrub that can grow to 13 feet in height, chamise is a native plant found in Oregon, California, Nevada, Baja California and Mexico up to about 5,000 feet. Growing in chaparral and as understory in shrub woodlands, chamise can live 100 or more years. About 50% of chamise plants can be found in serpentine soils. Chamise is one of the most widely distributed chaparral plants in California.

The leaves on this diffusely branched and resinous plant are small, hard, needle-like and are pungent with volatile oils. The bright green, shiny chamise leaves are clustered along the stems.

The chamise inflorescence is a panicle (branching stem with flowers opening bottom up). The tubular, white flowers have five petals, many stamens and an inferior ovary.

Chamise fruits are achenes (single seeded, dry, dow not open).

Native Americans and Spanish Americans used chamise branches to build ramadas and fences as well as for basketry. Bundles of bound branches were used for torches. Medicinally colds, convulsions, snake bites, cramps, lockjaw, and infections were treated with chamise preparations.

Small birds and mammals nest and find shelter amid chamise thickets. Deer and livestock browse young plants. Butterfly larvae feed on the chamise shrub.

The genus, Adenostoma, comes from the Greek “adena/gland” and “stoma/mouth” and refers to the glands at the mouth of the sepals. The tightly clustered (fasiculed) leaf arrangement gives this member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae) its species designation: “fascis” is Latin for bundle.

These chamise were photographed in May and June along Grizzly Gulch Road in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area (Shasta County CA).

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1 Response to Chamise

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Oh, I know this one. I lives right outside, and just about everywhere I have lived and worked in California. (If it did not live somewhere directly, it lived nearby.) Adenostoma sparsifolium is another species that I met while in school in San Luis Obispo. I believe it lived farther south, and into Los Angeles County.

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