Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub
Chaparral is a vegetation community generally composed of evergreen, hard-stemmed, leathery leaved shrubs. It is one of the most widespread vegetation communities in San Diego County. The most common species of chaparral include: several different species of manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp., and Xylococcus bicolor) with smooth red bark, scrub oaks (Quercus spp.), chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) with brilliant yellow to red flowers, and several species of ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.), with are sometimes referred to as wild lilac.
Chaparral plants are highly adapted to periodic natural fires that occur once every ten to thirty or more years. Some species, such as Cupleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus greggii), require fire as part of their lifecycle. Chaparral species have adapted to tolerating wildfire by either resprouting from underground roots or producing prolific seedlings after a fire. The lack of cyclical burns in chaparral can result in significant amounts of plant biomass that produce intense burns when the inevitable fire occurs.
Coastal Sage Scrub
Coastal sage scrub is sometimes referred to as “soft-chaparral.” It consists predominantly of low growing, aromatic, and generally soft-leaved shrubs. The dominant shrub species in this habitat community are: sweet scented California sage (Artemisia californica), a low shrub with gray-green, feathery leaves; Flat-topped buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), a shrub with short dark green, needlelike leaves; Black sage (Salvia mellifera), a shrub with a strong odor, bright green leaves and lavender flowers; the descriptively named Saw-tooth golden bush (Hazardia squarrosa); Laurel sumac (Malosma laurina), a large shrub with canoe shaped leaves; Bladderpod sage (Isomeris arborea) with its unique, inflated pods; and the San Diego sunflower (Viguiera laciniata).
Fire is an important element in the ecology of coastal scrub. The predominant species have crowns whose vegetative buds resprout after fires, just as in many chaparral species. The rapid regrowth by root crown sprouting and small wind-dispersed seeds often make these species successional to chaparral after fire or other disturbance. When fire occurs too frequently, coastal scrub may be replaced by grasslands that are often dominated by non-native annual species.