The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Spring Equinox 2000 || Volume III, Number 1


Deerweed, Chaparral Broom, California Broom
Lotus scoparius, (Nuttall) Ottley.

by David Rogers © 2000

In the early years after the Marble-Cone Fire of 1977, this species quickly became the most abundant species in areas formerly dominated by shrubs, so much so that the mountain slopes changed color depending on its seasonal stages. The mountain sides were green from winter to spring, but turned yellow during the peak flowering season (from late May to early July), and then to reddish as the flowers aged. After returning to green for a few weeks, the slopes turned rusty-red for about a month or so as the leaves were withering and being shed, and then turned grayish for the rest of the dry season, for only the dormant stems remained. Over the years since 1977 this species has gradually became less common, although, unlike other "burn species," it has not become rare in Santa Lucia Mountains. It will be interesting to see if it responds so vigorously after the relatively low intensity fires of last year as it did after the extremely high intensity Marble-Cone Fire.

These are broom-like subshrubs with lanky herbaceous stems that become densely adorned with yellow pea-like flowers from late spring to early summer. The stems are numerous, and tend to form rounded crowns ranging from about 1 to 4 feet tall. The leaves are sessile and three-foliate, and the flowers are clustered in the axils of the leaves. The fruit is an upwardly curled and two-seeded legume about 1 to 1.5 cm. long.

Deerweed is endemic to the California Floristic Province, where it found in the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Foothills, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Humboldt and Plumas Counties to northern Baja California.

Photographs were taken by Bro. Alfred Brousseau and are courtesy of the Virtual Library Project of U. C. Berkeley.

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