Chaparral: Where in the World
habitat and range for chaparral

Larrea tridentata is a prominent species in the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts of western North America, and its range includes those and other regions in portions of south-eastern California, Arizona, Nevada, southern Utah, New Mexico and Texas in the United States, and northern Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico.

Chaparral: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information about chaparral

Chaparral is a flowering plant in the family Zygophyllaceae. It is an evergreen shrub growing to 1 to 3 meters (3.3 to 9.8 ft) tall, rarely 4 meters (13 ft). The stems of the plant bear resinous, dark green leaves with two opposite lanceolate leaflets joined at the base, with a deciduous awn between them, each leaflet 7 to 18 millimeters (0.28 to 0.71 in) long and 4 to 8.5 millimeters (0.16 to 0.33 in) broad. The flowers are up to 25 millimeters (0.98 in) in diameter, with five yellow petals. Galls may form by the activity of the creosote gall midge. The whole plant exhibits a characteristic odor of creosote, from which the common name derives. Chaparral has a highly toxic substance produced at its root that prevents other plants from growing nearby, thus reducing the competition for vital nutrients and water.

common names & nomenclature
The botanical name is said to be for Juan Antonio Hernandez de Larrea, a Spanish clergyman. Chaparral is called gobernadora in Mexico, which is Spanish for "governess," due to its ability to secure more water by inhibiting the growth of nearby plants. Also has the odor of creosote, thus the common name creosote bush.

Also known as:
creosote bush, grease wood, gobernadora, chaparral, hediondilla

Chaparral: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting chaparral

Chaparral or creosote bush is most commonly found on the well-drained soils of alluvial fans and flats; the plant prefers full sun to part shade.

Grows in desert soils but prefers a moderately fertile moisture-retentive soil, mature plants can tolerate drought, good for xeriscaping.

Sow the seeds outdoors in full sun after danger of last frost in Spring. Can also start seeds in a greenhouse, scarify the seed & soak in water for 24 hours then lightly cover the seed with soil. After germination, second set of true leaves emerges, transfer to larger container. This is a high desert plant so it tolerates drought and will not do well if overwatered.

Collect young stems, leaves and flowers in spring when resin is greatest. Harvesting chaparral is a difficult task due to the abrasive nature of the stems and the stickiness of the leaves.

Dry leaves and stems thoroughly, cut into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Chaparral: The Rest of the Story
chaparral history, folklore, literature & more

relieving pain with chaparral
Chaparral stinks! Literally. And it tastes downright unpleasant. So the herb's major healing benefit comes as something of a surprise—it's a mouthwash.

We're not talking minty fresh here. You wouldn't want to reach for it before puckering up for your morning kiss. But don't let that stop you—the unassuming Chaparral shrub, native to the America Southwest, contains a chemical that may spell death to some of the germs that cause bad breath.

If, as some people believe, effective medicine smells foul and tastes terrible, Chaparral should be a terrific healer. Its leaves exude a waxy resin that smells like creosote and is the source of its popular names: stinkweed, greasewood/, and creosote bush (the plant does not contain creosote).

Chaparral is not a garden herb. It's a woody, olive green or yellow shrub that dominates the Southwest's arid landscape. Chaparral grows to about 10 feet and resembles a dwarf oak.