What is the Chaparral Biome?

S. Mithra

Warm, mild winters, hot, dry summers, and a little rain characterize the chaparral biome. Shrubland, or chaparral, doesn't cover much of the planet's surface, but this coastal biome is created when cooler seawater meets a landmass with high average temperatures. Chaparral lies 30-40 degrees above and below the Equator, beyond the tropics. In the north lies the "chaparral" of coastal California and Baja, and "maquis" around the Mediterranean Sea. In the south we find the "matorral" of Chile, "fynbos" of southern South Africa, and the westernmost coast of Australia's "mallee." The landscape can vary from furrowed valleys and plains to rolling hills and rocky mountains.

Rattlesnakes may be found in the chaparral biome.
Rattlesnakes may be found in the chaparral biome.

Across the world, the climate of the shrubland is known as Mediterranean. The dormant season, lasting most of spring, summer, and autumn, has little rain. Temperatures reach up to 100° F (38° C) and average 64° F (17° C), bringing fires in the driest months. Over the winter, the temperature averages a balmy 50° F (10° C), and brings 15-25" (38-64 cm) of rain, which allows vegetation other than cactus to flourish. Chaparral plants, accustomed to drought, use this rainfall to grow much more rapidly than desert scrub.

Coyotes live in the chaparral biome.
Coyotes live in the chaparral biome.

Some of the plants in the chaparral biome extend into adjacent deserts, but most of the vegetation is shrubs, dwarf trees, and grasses not found in the desert biome. These plants have evolved smaller, firmer leaves, with a waxy surface that conserves moisture. Some species are yucca, myrtle, oak, heather, dwarf Eucalyptus, sagebrush, and manzanita. To access scarce water, either they have a deep taproot, to reach a low water table, or a wide, shallow root system to collect surface moisture.

Animals found in the chaparral biome include jackrabbits, foxes, toads, coyotes, rattlesnakes, gophers, woodpeckers, aardvarks, kangaroo rats, wallabies, and many other insects and birds. They can burrow, extract water from certain plants, or migrate during the hottest months to withstand the heat and drought. There is much more species variation in these animals than in the desert, but they share methods of protection against frequent wildfires.

Temperatures reach up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the chaparral biome.
Temperatures reach up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the chaparral biome.

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Discussion Comments


Chaparral is somewhat known as California’s native landscape. It is very important in the protection from erosion on the hillsides. Some people consider it to be trashy looking and feel the need to burn the chaparral on a regular basis. This, in actuality, is not necessary and can actually be harmful. It can eliminate the last of the old growth chaparral and can lead to the conversion of the younger chaparral to the weedy grasslands by increasing the fire frequency.


The shrubbery in the chaparral is usually so thick and intertwined that it does not permit too many different kinds of plants to prosper.

One of California's chaparral plants is buck brush, or California lilac. The flowers of the plants were uses by Chumash as shampoo. There are other chaparral plants that were used for medicinal purposes, and or tools, such a Chamise and Christmas berry.

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