Chaparral is the dominant landcover in California's coastal mountain ranges. It is well-adapted to colonizing steep, rocky slopes that are poor in nutrients. The close-spacing of plants, prevalence of dead wood, and the volatile oils of many species of plants make chaparral one of the most fire-prone landscapes. Many tree and shrub species resprout after a fire from large underground burls. Leaves of many species, like chamise, are small and needlelike, and covered in a waxy coating, to help reduce water loss through evaporation, and better tolerate heat and drought. Evergreen chaparral plants photosynthesize year round, but only grow when water is available, from late autumn through early spring. Many plants have a dual root system, with broad shallow roots to take advantage of light winter rainfall, and deeper roots to tap water during summer drought. The aromatic oils of artemesia and salvia lend the chaparral landscape its signature, energizing fragrance.
California plants evolved with fire over millions of years. Many plant species have adapted to survive wildfire, and some even depend on fire for germination and sustained vigor. Native Americans used fire as part of their stewardship regime, to help recycle and mineralize nutrients, stimulate new plant growth, increase forage for wildlife, and to control insects and pathogens, especially in the oak understory, to protect acorns -- a major source of food
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