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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 vegetation, 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 explore the garrigue that can be seen in the foothills to the south of the Luberon mountain. The plants that you will smell easily, aromatics, are lavender, rosemary, thyme and savory. You will notice other plants such as curry plant, cotton lavender and Mediterranean heather, especially when in blossom. And, for sure, you will not miss the following shrubs, more or less prickly : Kermes oak, Mock privet, Turpentine tree, prickly juniper and gorse.

This flora is able to survive long periods of draught : the different species can indeed develop diverse strategies for adapting water resources. Your local guide will explain all that to you if you are interested. 


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 in the Massif des Calanques, besides the common plants and shrubs that grow among Provence’s garrigues, you see a lot the following ones : Italian buckthorn, Narrow-leaved scorpion vetch, spiny broom, Etruscan honeysuckle. And the presence of many screes and steep slopes explain why the Mediterranean scrubland here is less dense than most types of other garrigues. That may allow you to catch sight of Arenaria provincialis, an endemic plant occuring only in the limestone hills around Marseille. Later, on a rocky platform, high above Calanque de Sugiton, your local guide tells you about another type of garrigue that can be seen 100m below, much closer to the sea-spray. Down there, kermes oak is absent and rosemary much shorter. And different plants grow on the seaside, such as curry plant, Mediterranean beach daisy and Astragalus Tragacantha. The last one is 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, located at the foot of the eastern part of the majestic rocky ridge of Garlaban, this trail takes you up to the heights above the Huveaune valley. With your local guide, as soon as you leave the back road in the small cultivated valley and start walking on the stony path, garrigue is surrounding you. Once on top of today’s summit, Mont du Marseillais (628m), you first enjoy a spectacular view of the valley below and of the Sainte-Baume mountain facing you. Then, you can take time to observe and take pictures of the dozens of plant species growing around you. Your guide will probably be able to name most of them. Your memories after this hike will be filled up with the aromas overwhelming the denser parts of garrigue 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 ?