My subject here, Chamise or Greasewood is a much demonized shrub in the Chaparral Plant Community. Quite often it is blamed for most of the catastrophic wildfires in Southern California and often accused of being an invasive take over of habitat from more desirable shrubs and trees in it's very own native habitat. So much of what is misunderstood by the public has likely been the fault of Journalists, Politicians, the very Departments and Agencies in charge of land management oversight and those bought and paid for Scientists who back the business interests of corporate agencies who should know better.
Adenstoma fasciculatum Chamise & Cuyamaca Cypress
Inspiration Point off Hwy 79 south of Julian California
These are simply some pictures I took from last weekend on our trip once again to Julian California. Admittedly in my past, I too had negative feelings or impressions about this plant and others, but most of it was based on the ignorance I also learned in School. What I love looking for when hiking and exploring outdoors are specific nurse plant examples [older well known ones and newer yet to be discovered ones] when I'm out in the bush. Always looking for which plants may be the best parent plants for use in practical application in habitat restoration or in community planting of the urban landscape. This poor shrub in the photograph above is also called by a purposeful derogatory name as Greasewood because it has a high content of volatile organic compounds, but then so do most other plants. But it conveys the idea that Chamise is worthless for nothing else than burning. A reality check here should reveal to you that all plants made of organic matter will burn. Just look at those colder Boreal Forests locations near the Arctic circle, even those of Temperate and Tropical rainforests. They all burn with great ferocity given the right circumstances. But this chaparral plant's mere presence will invoke the usual hatred by many an fire ecology expert and landowner determined to eradicate it in favour of what many humans consider plants with more eye-candy appeal. Often blamed for the reasons and causes of catastrophic wildfires and chocking out the more desirable plants, this in reality couldn't be further from the truth.
Inspiration Point, Hwy 79 south of Julian
|image: Mine (2015)|
|image: Mine (2015)|
Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Diversity
Chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) normally forms arbuscular mycorrhizae with all genera found in the region. However, during wet years (El Niño), we found EM associated with its roots and EM fungi in the stands (Allen and others 1999b). There was a high diversity of fungi ranging from Cenococcum and Balsamia spp. (ascomycetes) to a variety of basidiomycetes such as Pisolithus sp., Cortinarius spp., and Hysterangium separabile. We also found a new species of Rhizopogon: R. mengei (Allen and others 1999a). This is an important finding, since all other known species of Rhizopogon are associated with conifers. In addition, we sequenced the dominant fungus found on the root tips of chamise, and this fungus was an unknown species of ascomycete, most closely related to Sarcocypha emarginata (97 percent similarity in the sequence alignment of the 5.8S region, 63 percent similarity in ITS1, and 59 percent similarity in ITS2), a common fire-following fungus."This last line in this research article's paragraph about Adenostoma fasticulatum and the other possible or potential yet to be discovered plant host to Mycorrhizal colonization relationships is really an understatement. Just think, what if the world's Scientific community had actually been pursuing such responsible biomimetic research these past decades as opposed to the obsession with an artificial version of plant care concerned only with Patents for product, manufacturing product, slapping a label on product and charging outrageous prices for artificial product which is not nearly as effective as the real deal found in Nature ? Quite possibly we wouldn't be living in the present wrecked world we all are forced to endure as a result of the misuses and abuses of Industrial Science.
"There are clearly plant/fungal symbiotic combinations that we do not understand and have yet to explore."Prior to the trip to Inspiration Point south of Julian, it had rained fairly heavy from recent Monsoonal Thunderstorms the week before this week's visit, but it hadn't been long enough and soaking enough to trigger any summer emergence of truffles this time. But at the very least I did find numerous broken dried out truffles with mature chocolate brown spores easily dislodged when rubbed from their compartmentalized interior casings. At least this was proof the system was still functioning in this spot. This cannot be said for my former collecting grounds on the outskirts of Anza a year ago.
Pisolithus tinctorius or Tom Volk's Dog Turd Fungus
|Image: Mine (2014)|
Mostly I wanted to expose here the importance of Chamise and it's value to land managers and large land owner's who otherwise are prone to stripping such plants from their landscape mistakenly believing they are making an improvement. I have no problem with creating defensible space around their homes and other dwellings or even wishing to create what they consider more desirable trees and shrubs, but the Chamise is an asset in this area and not the enemy. Old school bigoted ideas and biased assumptions promoted for decades by ignorant land managers have got to be rejected. I'll provide a few more links, although I appreciate many will find such boring. Not the fault of the subject matter, but mostly the researchers who by nature never have been great communicators to the public as a whole. That in itself is one of the biggest problems of most of this world's leadership in general. As a final note, the use of Chamise in the urban landscape would be limited or none at all. Most of this post was to direct attention away from the negatives about this chaparral plant and it's important purpose within the Southern California Chaparral landscape. It's importance in covering the land quickly after fire and important role as a nurse plant or mother tree for other ecosystem succession plant life. The decades of conventional land management wisdom have been a failure, now perhaps acknowledging the reality of how the programmed mechanisms in Nature really work is the only hope left for humankind.
|Photo by Pete Veilleux - Big Sur wilderness - October 2016|
Ecological Succession of the Climax Forest
There is something extremely important to remember here. The Cedar Fire (2003) tore through massive amounts of both old growth Chaparral and Forested regions of San Diego County mountains. Many of these beautiful pristine places of ecological climax succession took hundreds of years of long term gradual development to reach such an old growth state. But it took one unfortunate irresponsible act which triggered a massive catastrophic event over a mere couple weeks to almost completely destroy it all. To help illustrate in human terms, most of this world's Sports Stars, Hollywood Film & TV Celebrities, Popular Political Personalities, Nobel Prize Winners, all manner of other world renowned Heroes etc spend decades building up their careers and reputations to attain what most people would consider a celebrity climax status of sorts later in life. Many times these stars crash and burn their reputations through one senseless act which becomes public. Often times most never recover. If they do it takes many more decades if they have the luxury of that kind of time and even then their celebrity fame never mirrors their former glory. We now live in a time like that where ecological circumstances have changed drastically where recovery may not heal as programmed over and over for thousands of years with no problem. Understanding the biological mechanical components for recovery are more important than ever because life on earth no longer has the luxury of time on their side anymore.
One of my favourite images of Adenostoma fasticultaum - Chamise with Trichostema lanatum - Woolly Blue Curls which can most commonly be seen growing together in the lower slopes of the San Jacinto Mountains west of Mountain Center near Idyllwild California. Especially when hiking the South Fork Canyon Trail off Hwy 74.
|Image by Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery|
Further Reading References
And finally, what motivates human hatred of specific organisms in the Natural World ?