Skip to main content
Log in

The community composition of Californian coastal sage scrub

  • Published:
Vegetatio Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Coastal sage scrub is a community found extensively throughout cismontane California south of San Francisco, but has been surprisingly little studied. In the study area, which extends from Santa Barbara to the San Gorgonio Pass, two major floristic groupings can be found. In the basin bounded coastwards by a line drawn along the axis of the Santa Ana Mountains a large number of native and introduced annual herbs and a few shrubs (e.g.Encelia farinosa), rare or absent in the remainder of the study area, characterize one floristic group. In the coastal region the variety of shrub species increases, and the herbs are predominantly native and more restricted in number. Eleven groups defined by physiognomy, structure and species dominance, and arbitrarily called associations, are recognized. These associations can be grouped into four physiognomic-structural types which transgress the boundaries of the floristic groups. The results of this study and the limited previous literature suggest that Californian coastal sage scrub could be divided, mainly on floristic criteria, into Venturan, San Diegan and Riversidian sage.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Axelrod, D. I. 1950. Contributions to paleontology. I. Classification of the Madro-Tertiary geoflora. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Pub. 590: 1–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Braun-Blanquet, J. 1928. Pflanzensoziologie. Springer, Berlin. 825 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Epling, C. & H. Lewis. 1942. The centers of distribution of the chaparral and coastal sage associations. Amer. Midl. Nat. 27: 445–462.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harrison, A. T., E. Small & H. A. Mooney. 1971. Drought relationships and distribution of two Mediterranean-climate California plant communities. Ecology 52: 869–875.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. American Geographical Society Spec. Pub. 36 (map and manual). 116 pp.

  • Mooney, H. A. & A. T. Harrison. 1972. The vegetational gradient on the lower slopes of the Sierra San Pedro Martir in northwest Baja California. Madrano 21: 439–445.

    Google Scholar 

  • Munz, P. A. & D. D. Keck. 1968. A California Flora with the supplement (by P. A. Munz). University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles. 1681+224 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ornduff, R. 1974. Introduction to California plant life. University of California Press, Berkeley & Los Angeles. 152 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shreve, F. 1936. The transition from desert to chaparral in Baja California. Madrano 3: 257–264.

    Google Scholar 

  • Veldman, D. J. 1967. Fortran programming for the behavioural sciences. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, USA.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, W. T. & J. M. Lambert. 1959. Multivariate methods in plant ecology. I. Association analysis in plant communities. J. Ecol. 47: 83–101.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Plant nomenclature follows Munz & Keek (1968).

We gratefully acknowledge the financial help provided by the Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, and the aid in plant identification provided by Mr. Oscar Clarke, Museum Scientist, Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kirkpatrick, J.B., Hutchinson, C.F. The community composition of Californian coastal sage scrub. Plant Ecol 35, 21–33 (1977).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: