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Botany explorations in Provence’s garrigue

 

Garrigue, the uniqueness of Provence’s hills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking eyes closed, alone in the middle of garrigue,  somewhere in the hills around Marseille, may lead you to experience a unique mix of sensations : the different fragrances of rosemary, thyme, lavender overwhelming your nostrils ; cicada songs and the heat stunning you a little bit in summer days, the small branches and prickly little leaves of the diverse bushes tickling your legs when leaving the trail, if wearing short pants. Several years after your hike through Provence’s hills, wherever you live on the earth, you will probably be drawn back by garrigue ‘s distinct atmosphere and rough sensuality !

Your local guide will tell you about the specific fauna living in garrigue. He (or she) will explain to you why garrigue is so common in the South of France, how it appears, how long it lasts, why we can see garrigue in some places, pinegroves in some others, oak forest elsewhere. He (or she) can also inform you about how garrigue can help men out. 

Please note that the following hiking trails allowing you to discover the garrigue of Provence are three ones among a dozen that can be proposed to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking in Massif du Garlaban 

 

The garrigue in the south-facing foothills of the Luberon
Half-day

 

On this walk,  you will explore the garrigue that can be seen in the foothills to the south of the Luberon mountain. Aromatic plants such as lavender, rosemary, thyme and savory, other plants such as curry plant and Mediterranean heather and a lot of more or less prickly shrubs : kermes oak, Jasmine box, turpentine tree, prickly juniper and gorse.

All those plants are able to survive long periods of draught because they can develop strategies for adapting water resources that your local guide will explain to you. 


Walking time
: 2.5 hours (total : 3.5 hrs)
Rating : moderate
Season calendar : year-round (summer : 8am – 11am only)
Not allowed on fire risk days.

 

 

 

Walking in the garrigue above Calanque de Sugiton
Half-day

 

During this walk on a balcony trail, besides the common plants and shrubs that grow among Provence’s garrigues, you will see spurge, Evergreen buckthorn, Mediterranean crownvetch, spiny broom, Etruscan honeysuckle. The presence of many screes and of steep slopes explain why the Mediterranean scrubland here is less dense than most types of other garrigues. That will may allow you to catch sight of Arenaria provincialis, an endemic plant occuring only in the limestone hills around Marseille.

On a rocky platform, high above Calanque de Sugiton, your local guide will tell you about another type of garrigue that can be seen 100 meters below, much closer to the sea-spray, where kermes oak is absent and rosemary shorter and where other plants grow, such as curry plant, Mediterranean beach daisy and Astragalus Tragacantha, a rare endangered species that can be seen very close to the sea.

 

Walking time : 2.5 hours (total : 3.5 hrs)
Rating : moderate (rugged terrain)
Season calendar : 1/1 – 6/15  &  9/15 – 12/31

 

 

 

 

A scenic hike up to the garrigue in Massif du Garlaban
Full day

 

From the small village of Lascours, this trail will take you up to the heights above the Huveaune valley to the north-east of the majestic rocky peak of Garlaban. With your local guide, as soon as you leave the back road in the small cultivated valley and walk on the stony path, garrigue will surround you. Once on top of today’s summit, Mont du Marseillais (628m), in addition to the spectacular view of the valley below and the Sainte-Baume mountain facing you, you will have time to observe and take pictures of the dozens of species growing around you.  The aromas will be overwhelming in the denser parts of garrigue, especially in the sunshine !

 

Walking time : 3.5 hours (total : 5 hours)
Rating : challenging (rugged terrain, 1,500 feet elevation gain)
Season calendar : year-round (in summer, start at 7 am) 
Not allowed on fire risk days.

 

 

 

 

The Provençal term garric, from which the French word garrigue
is derived, represents the evergreen shrub on this photograph.

 

 

 

Do you know its name in English ?

 

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in learning more about garrigue, please click on : what do we call garrigue ?