Among the plant communities found within the California Floristic Province, chaparral is one of the dominant forms covering the coastal mountain ranges of central and southern California. The total area covered by chaparral in eight of the 10 southern-most counties in California amounts to over 3.6 million acres. In addition, coastal sage scrub, sometimes referred to as soft chaparral, makes up another dominant, though rapidly disappearing plant community rich in unique species.
One chaparral plant species of note can be seen in today’s photo. Notable for its red bark, Manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.) is represented by somewhere between 40 and 100 unique species that range in form from low growing shrubby ground cover to small trees that can reach 20 feet in height. The common name is Spanish and would be directly translated as “little apple,” referring to the small apple-like fruit produced from the bell-shaped flowers. The fruit was used by Native Americans to make meal and cider. Much of the wildlife found in chaparral also depend on the fruit for food throughout the summer.
The red bark and clinging snow caught my eye as a unique expression of winter in southern California. As a member of the chaparral, Manzanita is a representative of the hardy, evergreen plants that make up a plant community adapted to the Mediterranean climate of southern California. Similar plant communities can be found in each of the other four Mediterranean climate zones found on Earth, a great example of parallel evolution in similar habitats.
Today’s photo was taken with a Canon EF28-135 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens zoomed to 135 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. The exposure was set to 1/180 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 400.