Your best source of accurate information about native shrubland communities and California's most extensive ecosystem...
Welcome Natural History Enthusiasts, Teachers, Research Scientists, and Wildland Firefighters
Of all the distinct, natural communities in California, only one is found throughout and only one can be said to represent the state's most characteristic wilderness: chaparral, a special plant community characterized by drought-hardy, woody shrubs, shaped by a Mediterranean-type climate (summer drought, winter rain), and threatened by too many fires. It is within the chaparral where California will find its best and perhaps last chance to reclaim its wildness and preserve the quality of life made possible by the region's natural, open spaces.
This site is being updated frequently, so please return from time to time. Last update: February 12, 2016.
The Chaparral Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, research, and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of native shrubland habitats throughout the world and supporting the creative spirit as inspired by nature.
Every dime we obtain through donations helps us defray costs for publications, transportation, research and education. With no financial attachments to any formal institutions or economic interests we can afford to be the voice of the chaparral without concern over future funding.
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A Personal Message About Soccer and Nature
After controlling the ball 90% of the time, shutting out the opposition three games in a row, and riding high on friendship born from struggle and cooperation, our 10-year-old son's soccer All-Star team was forced into a penalty kick show-down due to a 1:1 tie. As each player squared off, the tie continued until the last, with goalie kicking against goalie. We lost. It was such lousy way to lose, especially since our team had played so well together. Such a one-on-one showdown just doesn't seem right.
You may be wondering what this has to do with chaparral; well, quite a bit actually. You see Sunday, the day we would have been playing in the final game had we won, our family of four spent the afternoon hiking up a mountain covered with magnificent, old-growth chaparral near our home. At one point the vegetation was so high and dense that our path had to weave its way through a narrow tunnel of ceanothus, the canopy of which arched more than three feet over my head. I'm six feet six inches tall. More than a century ago, such a place would have been a utilized by the California grizzly bear to travel from one side of the mountain to the other.
My son knew the plants along the way and proudly announced their names. They were friends to him. They were friends to all of us. On the way back down, we heard the bouncing whistle of the wrentit, a chaparral voice that made our hearts sing. Our son pointed that out too. It was one of the best adventures we've had as a family. You see, nature has a way of refocusing energies, helping to put things back into perspective. It allows us to realize (once again) what is really important in life.
Yeah, we lost a little dream on the soccer field and still felt horrible about it, but somehow it was O.K. after our chaparral adventure Sunday. Nature brought us back. And it wasn't just because we took a walk, but because we took a walk with friends from the wild. We felt at home. The characters and things around us were familiar because we knew their names and their life histories. They had meaning for us.
Beyond its value as a natural resource and watershed, chaparral is valuable as a place of connection, beauty, and peace in a very busy and sometimes confusing world. This is why I am so passionate about helping others learn to appreciate the chaparral or whatever natural environment is near their home. It helps make life so much more enjoyable and helps people smile, something we need a lot more of these days, especially after a not-so-good day on the soccer field.
Richard W. Halsey Director The Chaparral Institute
Richard W. Halsey Director
Richard Halsey has given more than 400 presentations and written numerous papers and articles over the past ten years concerning chaparral ecology, how communities can adapt to fire-prone environments, and the importance of nature education. Richard also works with the San Diego Museum of Natural History and continues to teach natural history throughout the state. The second edition of his book, Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California, was awarded the 2008 Best Nonfiction-Local Interest Book by the San Diego Book Awards Association. He was also trained as a Type II wildland firefighter past the age most would consider reasonable in order to better understand fire.
Richard earned undergraduate degrees from the University of California in environmental studies and anthropology. During graduate work he received teaching credentials in life, physical and social science and a Master's in education. Richard taught biology for over thirty years in both public and private schools and was honored as Teacher of the Year for San Diego City Schools.
For a list of Richard's publications and interviews, please visit ourPublications Page.
One of the best kept secrets of the chaparral is its remarkable wildflowers. Pictured here is a Humboldt's Lily (Lilium humboldtii) found at the base of Viejas Mountain, San Diego County. A walk through the chaparral between January and May offers a nearby, peaceful alternative to visiting other, more distant wildflower display locations.