Chaparral is one of the most prolific and iconic plant communities of the Central Coast. It is shaped and influenced by our "Mediterranean climate" characterized by mild temperatures, drought, winter rains, and occasional wildfires. Chaparral is mostly dominated by hardy shrubs, that can make impenetrable thickets when undisturbed for decades.

Chaparral covers less than 5% of California and the majority of that occurs on the coast of Central/Southern California. Here on the Central Coast, chaparral covers most of our foothills and mountains, stretching from the Santa Ynez mountain range to the northernmost portions of the Los Padres National Forest. One of the best and most easily accessible places to view chaparral is along Camino Cielo road as it winds through the mountains above Santa Barbara.

This plant community is mostly comprised of dense and hardy shrubs - especially when the plants have been undisturbed for decades at a time. These include plants like coyote bush, sages, coastal sage scrub, chamise, scrub oak, and more.

There aren't many invasive plants that threaten this plant community. Once established, native chaparral plants grow thick enough to crowd out any possible invasive threats. However, chaparral communities are often most vulnerable after a disturbance - whether by fire, brush cutting, trail clearing, or otherwise. Chaparral plants are strong and hardy, but they grow slowly and take time to reach that stage. If able to get a foothold, invasive plants like black mustard can quickly establish itself and prevent slow growing chaparral plants from regrowing.

Undisturbed chaparral plant communities can also be overtaken by cape ivy that spreads out from riparian corridors. Cape ivy can grow thick enough to block out the sun to plants underneath, killing off wide swaths of chaparral. Look to the hills in Carpinteria during the summer, and you can see they turn orange with the massive die-off of cape ivy.