Ahh, the Beauty of Mature Chaparral

Ahh, the Beauty of Mature Chaparral

My husband Tom, and I were amazed with the mature stands of chaparral on a hike we took last week – the Mishe Mokwa trail in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area. I think the photos below illustrate how short-sighted the belief is that chaparral is meant to burn. Chaparral does just great when it’s left to do its thing. We estimate that the chaparral on this hike was at least 30 years old, possible older.

Unfortunately, fire is hitting chaparral much more frequently than it used to historically (estimated at every 30 to 60 years, yes, a wide range). And it isn’t helped by the misconception that ‘it needs to burn’. If it burns too frequently it type converts to weeds. And then we don’t get to enjoy this old growth wonder.

For more information:

Local Hikes write-up and trailhead info

The California Chaparral Institute, headed up by a good friend of ours, Rick Halsey. has great information about this much misunderstood ecosystem.

Las Pilitas Nursery  website for looking up any of these plants and to learn about chaparral plants for your garden

We’ve used our favorite natives in our front yard landscaping – see my prior blog Our Conversion to Low Water Landscaping 

When Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub Burn – research article

Wonder the difference between chaparral and sage scrub? what I learned in San Diego Natural History Museum classes was helpful: many plants overlap (for ex, sage species occur in both) but sage scrub habitat is composed of mostly 2-3 feet tall plants and more widely spaced, while chaparral plants are taller, closely spaced and generally harder to walk through

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.


  1. Outstanding Linda!!! Not only are the photos beautiful and able to communicate important messages, you writing and supporting documents/information are really helpful to anyone who would like to dig further.

    I want to read more!

    And thanks for the plug! 🙂

  2. Great article on chaparral which I think it truly beautiful, and I especially am intrigued with this hike! I’ve never heard of it. Looks breathtaking!

    • It was our first visit to the Santa Monica National Recreation Area – beautiful, remote and the ocean and cities in easy reach. Seems there are lots of great hikes. See – the LA area has some great spots!

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