At first glance, the chaparral pea looks like a French broom… with bright pinkish-purple flowers. But this pretty bush is a California native. Pickeringia montana has medium-sized flowers and three-leaftleted leaves that are a shiny, vivid green. It can grow to more than six feet tall, and sprawls a little – just like broom does. But if the color and the shiny leaves weren’t enough to convince you that this isn’t a broom, then the thorns might do the trick! So watch out for it when you’re hiking.
It’s often found (as the name suggest) in the chaparral. Black-tailed deer love to browse on it, delicately nibbling their way around the thorns. This pretty shrub doesn’t reproduce well by seed in this area, but it does spread by rhizomes (spreading underground stems) or from its own roots. It comes back strongly after a fire has burned through.