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​The Verdon natural

The territory of the regional natural park of Verdon, there are nearly 2,000 species of vascular plants. (Vascular plants include plants equipped with conductive xylem vessels. Ferns, conifers and all flowering plants (for a botanist, "weeds" and the trees are flowering plants). They are also called plants 'higher' or 'rhizophytes' (literally ' roots plants') as opposed to MOSS or algae, non-conductive vessels and roots).
"Effective florets, the beautiful case!...". Yet? »
Well, 2,000 species of plants, it is almost a third of what can be found in France, or more, do to host all the British Isles. It is therefore an extraordinary diversity that conceals the Verdon, which a territory representing barely one-quarter of a Department deserves that attention a moment.
Taking its source to 2 325 m to the col d'Allos Verdon inherits from the geological history, we will come back, roughly North-South direction in its alpine part before influence its West full course between Saint-andre-les-alpes and Castellane. It crosses then the Grand Canyon, forms the artificial lake of Sainte-Croix, between the Valensole plateau and the hills of the Haut-Var and, finally, iterates through the low gorges into the Durance in Vinon-sur-Verdon, at a height of 260 m east-west part that forms more or less administrative between Provence and the Var border is also, for naturalists, an important centre for biodiversity.

Creation of the Regional Natural Park of Verdon

It is this contrast, naturally rich and relatively sparsely populated, that covers the regional natural park of Verdon. Established in 1997 it has approximately 21,000 souls, and 45 communes covering a little less than 180 000 hectares (i.e., history to be an idea, a rectangle of about 60 km by 30). It is designed to reconcile the preservation of this environment and the economic development of a region long forgotten by all. The two components, human and natural, contribute to the richness of the Verdon. Natural, it is a long story, that of the Earth. It shows set up rocks and landforms that form the backdrop. Then, how the climatic upheavals, which follow the end of the tertiary period in our days with flora custody still traces, did evolve vegetation that dress up the decor. human side, it is a memory recorded in landscapes and diversity.
Natural richness, is are added the effects of a presence human bearing. Ranching, by the maintenance of open habitats, and some crops such as, for example, the olive or truffle perpetuated the presence of Prairie shaved and dried, naturally rare in haute Provence. Into the 1980s, binding reliefs, limiting the development of intensive agriculture, and the relative isolation combined with low demographic have preserved this rich heritage.
20 years however, tourism and urbanization, large consumers of natural areas as well as the evolution of agriculture, deprise mountain and standardization in plain, contribute to a weakening and depletion of this diversity.
Mastery of urbanization, tourism development framework and the accompaniment of the agricultural mutation are challenges the Park to preserve the rich floristic and all the biodiversity of its territory.
Understand the Verdon is first briefly retrace its geological history, which overlaps with that of Provence, then imagine the nature at the time of the ice ages before finally see how the grain of salt by the man pointed a little sauce.

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Once upon a time, there are long...... geology

Complicated geology? Are you kidding! In the Verdon, nothing simpler. An original marine, two small blasts of the battering of the Pyrenees and the Alps and voila.

An original marine

It all started at the end of the primary era. By the set of the "derives from the continents', all land came together into a single supercontinent named, located between the south pole and the tropics. Provence is a platform flattened by erosion, low sloping towards the sea, somewhere Northwest of Pangea. At the beginning of the secondary era, about 240 million years ago, the Triassic period saw the fracturing of Pangea (always the continental drift) that accompanies a marine invasion of the Provencal platform, in several episodes of "back and forth". During the phases of withdrawal, "puddles" left by the sea will evaporate leaving huge layers of salt and gypsum found the route to Saint-Jurs (gypsum quarry) or near Castellane (salted source). In the middle of the secondary era, called Jurassic (as for another Park!), the sea is properly installed. This area of shallow depth, and with tropical climate that reign then, develops an intense life (fossilized coral found around Moustiers-Sainte-Marie lived at that time).
For 70 million years settle to the bottom of this sea the remains of the animals that inhabit the. Under the weight of sediments, sea floor deforms and sinking, one speaks "subsidence", exactly like an air mattress in a pool on which it would load a pebbles. So are thousands of metres of sediments which accumulate and, buried deep, are gradually transformed into limestone.
Most clays and the present marls in the Verdon in laminate benches, comes from "decalcification" limestone or a change in the level of the Sea (which also modifies the scheme of sedimentation). Another more local origin matches, at the base of the mouth of the rivers, for example, alluvium from neighbouring continents, much more silica-rich composition.

The rocks encountered

Here and there, very locally, gypsum, dolomite (a ' kind' of limestone rich in magnesium which is formed in warm, shallow lagoons under a tropical climate), the marls and clays. But it is limestone, which with the exception of the Valensole plateau, structure the landscape, in particular, those compact and thick, deposited during the Jurassic forming most of the large bars and cliffs of the Verdon.

A first upheaval

The Cretaceous, last great period of the secondary era, is the moment chosen by Africa, resulting from the fracturing of Pangea, to hit the South of Europe. This powerful shock compresses throughout the region, under the bottom of the sea and pleating the accumulated sediment. The Pyrenees are erected, as well as, in Provence, a series of parallel ridges of same East-West orientation. These are the hills surrounding Marseille (L'estaque, the star, string...), the Alpilles, or visible from the Park, the Luberon and the Lure mountain. The course of the Verdon, at the bottom of one of these East-West folds between Castellane and Vinon is another testament of this first upheaval.

The great upheaval

The early tertiary (there are 65 million years ago) is 'continental', Provence is emergent. But, quickly (in geological time scale) a relaxation of the "Pyrenees" compression allows a partial sea return before and during the rest of this period (and today), a new compression, caused by the rise of the Italy that just fit in Europe, creates folding of the Southern Alps. In haute Provence, the emergence of land become final at the end of the tertiary period, and the North-South reliefs of the pre-Alps, Montdenier, Chiran... were put in place. A last episode sees the filling of a wide basin, located just in front of the pre-Alps, by these reliefs from alluvium brand new. During millions of years, the Valensole plateau (it is from him that it is) is closing (with a phenomenon of subsidence), while widening the canyons and gorges.

The karst

Over time, erosion does its job by attacking landforms and the rocks that compose them. Therefore, the rain is originally by dissolution of limestone, the avens, sinkholes, and an entire underground drainage network. All of these 'Karst' phenomena (Karst is a plateau of Croatia where these phenomena were studied) has several consequences for flora.
On the plateau, sinkholes are grassland, often circular depressions, correspond to a more or less total leakage of calcium. The bottom of the sinkhole is lined by clay impurities that contained these dissolved limestone, and can therefore host calcifuges species (leaking limestone), by definition rare on the territory of the Park. More fertile than the surrounding pure limestones, they have always been sought by humans to settle crops or to graze livestock. Aloft, they serve as "snow trap", and are enriched by alpine plants.
More generally, the transformation of these trays in "Gruyère" allows rain to infiltrate quickly depth, before the plants can fully enjoy it, which reinforces the Mediterranean aridity. But this water is also a reserve deep, dropped gradually during the course of year by sources and springs at the foot of the cliffs where it (re) filed its form basins, cascades and entablatures of tufa limestone. In these settings bathed by a relatively constant humidity year-round, mosses, ferns, or sedges can withstand arid Mediterranean conditions.

Evolution of plants

Over geological time is superimposed the evolution of plants. The secondary era is that of conifers. Forming the current flora species do not yet exist. Fossils and geology enable us to reconstruct the climate of the time, hot in Provence, but it is however a bit too far in time so that it turns in the composition of the current flora. At most are found in that time the ancestors of all European flora, the fracturing of Pangea inducing independent continental developments. Flowering plants, which dominate the flora of our days, take their thriving at the beginning of the tertiary period, and must wait for it to ensure that all extant species are there. No need to dwell on the climate, rather chaotic moreover of the beginning of the tertiary period. And we are back there where we had left our geological history. The Miocene-Pliocene transition, the last two "divisions" of the tertiary era, there are 5 to 6 million years, sees two major events that will constitute the starting point of the 'modern' flora of high Provence history. These are, on the one hand, the height of the uplift of the Alps and, on the other hand, an incredible 'accident', closure and the drying up of the Mediterranean.

The climates of the Verdon

A phase preglacial

In this theatre of operations brand-new, the Alps on one side and a Mediterranean dried on the other, the subtropical climate in the Miocene will gradually cool off until the first glaciation. By drifting from Europe to the North, since the end of the primary era, Provence has reached its present position where it forms a geographical crossroads that climate. Subtropical flora and European temperate flora cohabit between - and 3.5 million years. Until first glaciations, wallpaper of flora will grow from two other components, "cold" Flora growing on the new reliefs with progressive cooling of the climate, and the Mediterranean flora which is in place after the reopening of the Strait of Gibraltar allowed the filling of the Mediterranean. The approach of the glaciations sees regression of subtropical flora.

A glacial phase

The era Quaternary (-. 2 million years ago to the present day) is marked with a succession of four periods of cooling. During the glacial-interglacial oscillations, the sea level fluctuates and generates several steps of digging and filling of the canyon of the Verdon River and its tributaries. The advance of glaciers, reaching Saint-andre-les-alpes, regrowth before it thermophilic Flora (who loves heat) and temperate. In Italy or Spain, they flee to the South, fleeing at latitudes where the climate is warmer. It is not the same in Provence where flora the most thermophilic is eliminated, blocked in his retirement by the Mediterranean. Conversely, during interglacial phases, it is the vegetation cold which is endangered, pushed back to the heights or in the coldest ubacs. These events, if they cause a depletion of tertiary flora, are also carriers of a revival by the genetic mixing that they allow. Species hitherto remote meet. Plants of the great North, driven southward by the Arctic glaciers join the Alpine species. Species of the steppes of Central Asia enjoy the interglacial more hot to settle. And all this small world co-exists in the Plains or on the slopes of the mountains free of ice.
A phase late glacial
•    18 000 to-14 000: steppe
•    14 000â-13 000: Juniper
•    -13 000 to-10 000: appearance of trees
•    -10000 to-7 500: white and pine oak
•    -7500 to 5000: appearance of FIR, beech, Holm oak and Aleppo Pine
•    -5 000 to-3000: Deforestation in plain
•    -3 000 to-2 000: generalization of the opening of the media
•    -2000-150: overexploitation and 'desertification '.
•    -150 to nowadays: reforestation and natural recovery.
18,000 years ago began the last retreat of glaciers disappearing in four to five millennia. Again, alpine plants migrate. Some date back to the North, others flee in attitude, some finally took refuge in cold low-altitude moorlands, true coolers natural in the heart of the Plains. It follows a so-called "Arctic-alpine" flora which refers to plants that have a disjunct distribution area for part in the Arctic area (where they were monitoring the retreat of glaciers) and partly in the Alps (because, "forgotten" by the deglaciation, they have taken refuge in the coldest areas of the Alps). More often, so isolated, Arctic and Alpine populations have evolved independently and then speaking of common origin and species 'affine', i.e. very close. They have a net air of family, but are still not quite identical.
This flora is one of the great riches of the flora of the Alps which is a certain number of representatives on the territory of the Park. This is the case of the purple saxifrage clinging to a few cold cliffs of the violet flower by two surviving in a rocky corridor of the massif the Chanier or Kupfer Ranunculus blooming in the snow patches. It is also, for the cold marshes, the grass of Parnassus of wetlands found in depressions in East of the haut Var. During this "deglaciation', the climate remains cold and dry until near the Mediterranean coast and the soils are still poor. A steppe of sagebrush and grasses dominates the landscape. Rare spring Adonis found at La Verdière is another example of a steppe plant. Then, during a thousand years, soil formation and beginning of warming caregiver, appears higher vegetation, dominated by junipers. With regard to their ecological requirements, their current extension allows to better understand the conditions of that time. He must reign an atmosphere reminiscent of the high Mediterranean mountains, as is observed today in the High Atlas, characterized by cold winters to precipitation in the form of snow, an early spring and summer drought.
The area fragmented the thurifera in Southern Alps or the isolation of Juniper sabine on the massif of Montdenier are probably relics from this period.


The plateau of Suech, above the village of Rougon, offers a beautiful karst. The limestone slab from the Jurassic forming the reliefs of adjustment and of flutes drains waters to Suech where the confluence of the sinkhole has led to the formation of a polje upholstered vast depression of a few hundred metres flat bottom of a land of decalcification, fertile, loose and able to keep moisture. Rich in clovers, alfalfa and Astragalus, this polje is a resource in grass for the sheep herd quality. Contrasting with this 'oasis of freshness", the edges of the depression are marked by the arid limestone pavements. Here, the bare rock outcrops, characterized by tapered edges and grooves that welcome succulent plants or plants in plated ground pads.

From-13 000 years, and for 3,000 years, the regression of junipers coincides with the development of the trees. Birch, willow and Sea buckthorn reflect an increase or a change in the precipitation regime which allows a greater soil moisture. Pine, great colonizer, grows everywhere in groves. Taking advantage of the climate improvement, species that had fled the cold broadcast back to the mountainous areas from territories-shelters.

A postglacial phase

During this phase (from-10 000 to-7 500 age) follow the heyday and decline of different tree species. So to implement plant estates that form the current vegetation floors. The Scots pine forests dominate the beginning of this period. Alongside them persist steppes in altitude, while the plain, in areas most exposed (as in the lower gorge), pockets of white oak begin to develop. The Mediterranean vegetation made a slow return from sea. The extension of the White Oak follows the evolution of the climate which continues to dry and to temper. It penetrates more deeply in the valleys, and in the absence of competition rises aloft.Nowadays in Ubaye pockets clinging to 1 600 m are considered to be remnants of this period. Above the oak, Scots pine remains the major forest essence. At the end of period, the climate becomes more humid and pubescent oak grows in Linden, elm and ash. For 2,500 years (period known as 'Atlantic'-7 500 years-5 000 years) the region is experiencing an optimum humidity and temperature which allows the diversification of the vegetation.
In the montane FIR became King. He trims the pinewood of altitude and pushes down a good portion of pubescent oak. But the contrasts of exposure always modulate these changes. In the great Gorge for example, oak, that benefits the most sunny slopes and la sapinière, installed on the fresh slopes, leave ungrateful land to pine forests.
In addition to low-level, Provencal, the Aleppo Pine Hills overrides definitely Scots pine while Holm oak starts to grow. Later beech spreads and supersedes little by little la sapinière. The end of this period coincided with the beginning of the latest upheaval for the vegetation and landscapes as well as human and its impact.
Once upon a time, there is very little time...... man Défricheur, farmer and Builder
Last episode in our story, the arrival of humans in Europe, particularly in our region. Hands-on (but not always in engineering), it will gradually mark the landscapes of its footprint, in particular by modifying the ranges of large forest trees. In Haute-Provence, the oldest traces of human presence have approximately 500,000 years. First hunter-gatherer, he merely collecting subsistence. Amelanchier, the Dogwood and the Viburnum in the undergrowth, Hazel at the edge of water, or pistachio on the sunny slopes, provide a part of the cover. It is with the settlement, at the end of the Neolithic period (-5 000 years), that the impact of the man becomes palpable. Clearing then adds to the natural changes of the end of the Atlantic who sees the decline in white oak, the extension of green oak and boxwood, and regression of the balsam fir for the benefit of the beech forest.

Development of agriculture

Agriculture develops first in plain. Forests are cut to open agricultural areas. In the mountains the scale of the deforestation is less because the first Neolithic which 'bind' are primarily pastoralists. But at ages of Bronze and iron (worms - 3 000 years) agriculture freed altitude and the opening of the media spreads. Man sets fire in mountain to increase pasture areas, collects wood to fuel the furnaces of cast iron ores, and cleared again at lower altitudes to install crops on the slopes are best exposed. The pastoral economy is in place, in the landscapes, the preponderance of the garrigues to Juniper, boxwood and oak.
In Roman times, a new database development sees the appearance of the polyculture of fruit trees (olive tree, vine, almond or walnut) and development of irrigation systems with the establishment of channels. The two millennia of development following result in the 19th century an overpopulation and overexploitation of rural areas.
The Organization of space, which saw the low-lying areas rather reserved for crops and the summits to summer pastures, will gradually change. The population growth requires the exploitation of the intermediate level. The forest is eliminated, especially adret extending cultures while providing materials and firewood.Agriculture key then without interruption the pastoral zone. In the middle of the 19th century, there is more space to 'conquer', which obliges to "force" the crops to meet the needs. Progressive sterilization of land overexploited, deforestation has also made very vulnerable to erosion, will result in a demographic crisis. The rural population is collapsing, first tapping by the Napoleonic campaigns, then by the famines that induce a rural exodus important in a century, most massifs of haute Provence lose between two-thirds and three-quarters of their inhabitants (the war of 14-18 will not arrange things).


This abandonment allows the takeover by the State, from 1850, many land. With the creation of the catering Service of the land of mountain (RTM) around 1870, are being implemented on these federal lands, major programmes of reforestation black pine plantations constitute (erosion) protection forests shelter which reconstitutes an ecosystem forest, near, it seems, of the original. To wait the end of the second world war to see demography recover, but the agricultural abandonment seems irreversible in the mountains. As a result, forests cover nowadays the majority of surfaces (afforestation rate between 50 and 60% in haute Provence, and 75% in the Park if you remove the Valensole plateau), in agriculture (including upper lawns maintained by pastoralism). The wastelands and urban and suburban spaces filling in the table. Agricultural, the vocation of natural spaces becomes secondary and tertiary activities more than multiethnic space consuming.

And tomorrow?

It's a good question! Even on a human scale, our natural heritage is not immutable. The giant Robert Dactylorhiza, Himantoglossum robertianum (Loisel.) rare and confined to the coast in the 1970s, which was then a legal protection, is from expanding. Having conquered some 40 departments, he reached the gates of Paris in the early 2000s. At the same time, inventories conducted in recent years in various departments of Provence show, compared to our elders, a net depletion of vegetation data. Markets, lean on old postcards of landscapes of the Verdon posed regularly some sellers. What evolution of the landscapes I in less than two centuries, the forest has reclaimed vast expanses of pasture and crops (you will see walking through that number of forests grow on hillsides laid out in terraces), gradually closing the landscapes. The return of deciduous trees and large ungulates, reduction of surfaces of dry grasslands, the disappearance of plants messicoles are other signs of these profound changes. It is the procession of ecosystems that is upset with, as single origin, man and its activities (or their disappearance).
Climate change that seems well underway, changing farming and Park rapidly changing demographics are all factors that are directly attributable to us and is known to alter our environment. It is therefore good to us to understand the causes and consequences of our actions, to define the future that we want, and finally give us the means to accompany, correct or supplement the impacts of our activities on the preservation of our natural heritage.

The current climate and adaptations of vegetation

Between the sea and the mountains, the climate is changing. With the altitude, the temperature decreases and rainfall increases. Feet in the water and head in the clouds; Provence demonstrates this rule with its members, Park. He was witness to the transition between the Mediterranean climate and mountain climate. Park inherits from the Alps relatively cool and humid atmosphere that bathes the reliefs of its northeastern part, while that in the South and West, the Valensole plateau and soft reliefs of the Haut-Var must to the Mediterranean their hot and dry summers.
That said, if it rains more in Saint-andre-les-alpes to Gréoux-les-Bains, it is in the sector of Comps-sur-Artuby that are observed maximum precipitation. There is however not really mystery the below, the foothills of Haut-Var are the first to intercept the depressions that come mainly from the East.
This apparent small sprain to rule in fact stresses the importance of terrain as "modulator" of the general climate. And as sliced landscapes are not lacking in the Verdon... there quickly that the Park has a multitude of situations that qualify locally two large montane and Mediterranean influences.
So, occasionally, read most and the funds of the gorges and canyons can be havens of freshness compared to the trays they enclose, and particularly well exposed mountain slopes can host thermophilic species (which like the heat) and xerophytic (who like drought).
Ubacs and adrets
The most including the slopes north of the reliefs, more cool and shady. Des adrets are the southern slopes more exposed to the Sun.

Adaptations of the flora to local conditions

The Mediterranean climate is (across the planet), an exception. It is the only one the hottest season is also the least rainy (summer drought). In Provence, in this first feature adds a second, the irregularity of the regime of rain in the fall and spring which sees alternating dry and watered years. For plants, these periods of near-constant drought (a little more random in the spring) summer, represent a particular challenge. At the point where they would have the most need for water, when it is very hot and so that evaporation is maximal, or during their spring development, may have the least at their disposal.
There are so any a procession of plants, calling the 'Mediterranean' flora, which have in common the adaptations to this particular climate. Several strategies have been implemented by these species:
•    Save water: Compare (Mediterranean) green oak leaves and those of white oak (more boreal). The first smaller and waxed leaves on the top to which limits evaporation.
•    Make reservations: among the plants that grow on the hillsides drier, one finds of sedums or fleece, "succulent" plants whose leaves resemble small boudinaged fingers (which you can also eat salads in the spring). Sips of water, these leaves are used as reserve during the summer season. Bulb plants employ the same system. The small Wyr3d Narcisse's low Gorge performs its cycle in the spring and survives the summer in the form of a fleshy onion.
•    Better exploiting the reserves of soil: Mediterranean plants typically have a very developed root system, whose effectiveness is enhanced by the use of the phenomenon of osmosis. By this passive physico-chemical mechanism, water diffuse less concentrated in the most concentrated Middle middle, and therefore, in the case that interests us, more soil to tissues of the plant are rich in dissolved, "Osmotic pressure" (the force of "suction") of the holm oak is nearly 10 times higher than white oak.
•    Use air conditioning: there are proportionately much more aromatic plants in the Mediterranean than in the rest of France. Evaporation of 'species', to the hottest hours refreshes the immediate environment of the plant (it's like the evaporation of ether which is applied on the arm before an injection).
At the other end of the Park, life is rosy for altitude species who must cope with the rigours of winter. Their problem is really the drought, but the cold that obliges them to protect themselves from Frost and leave them as a 'short' summer season to grow and reproduce. There are there also, different specific adaptations.
•    Annuals are organized to carry out their full cycle during the season. We note that replying to the same concern, an "unlivable" season, there are annuals Mediterranean curling their cycle between fall and spring.
•    Plants such as the saxifrage develop rosettes of leaves leathery and SIPs of antifreeze.
•    As a general rule, high mountain species are smaller than their plain cousins, but have more showy flowers (larger and/or more colorful). Considering the small size of the mountain plants as an adaptation to provide less than Jack Frost and wind (and thus to drying), while the enhanced appeal of their flowers would be an adaptation to the low duration of flowering which, added to the scarcity of pollinating insects, requires to quickly attract the butterfly marauding. 'Disproportionate' Kupfer Ranunculus flowers would be an illustration of this strategy.
Some species benefit from the light that filters through the layer of snow, and thermal protection that gives them, to begin to develop before even melting.

Floors of vegetation and environments

As we have seen throughout of the introduction, the distribution of humans living in space and in time is not the result of chance, but fits closely to the environmental conditions. And circles, it has understood also, with climate shades, variations of the limestone and karst, the partitioning of the reliefs, and the richness of its history, this is not what is lacking in the Verdon! Therefore, the naturalist didn't really the time to get bored. Not panic, however, even without specific knowledge, there is always a way to make sense of this diversity. With a little attention, we can «ranger» vegetation and flora, somewhat like a puzzle, in sets where we easily spotted the different elements that compose the landscape. First are the 'large' floors. A glance at the tree species frequently or the appearance of deforested areas to recognize several landscapes that follow one another and rub shoulders depending on the altitude.

Floors of vegetation

•    To the Southwest lies, between 250 and 500 m, the hottest part and driest Park. The vegetation is dominated by the holm oak and Aleppo Pine. The non-wooded hillsides are covered by the garrigue, the maquis or a few lawns. It is the Mediterranean floor.
•    Above, and up to 1,200 m, these are white oak and Scots pine that structure the Woods and forests. Abandoned lands and Rocky slopes are covered with heaths of genet and boxwood. With pastures and some lawns in the clearings that complete the picture, here the scree floor, best represented in the Park.
•    Then there are the slopes of the foothills of the Alps. It is the area of Scots pine, with following exposure or the action of foresters, beech forests or reforestation of black pine veneers. There are, in the cooler areas, trees and yews, referred to as the montane.
•    At the top of the slopes and on their summits, a Provençal specificity. The mountain-Mediterranean floor where rigour of altitude and Mediterranean influence are combined in an original and unique way. The weather is too rough to allow installation of trees, but at the same time too influenced by the Mediterranean that the Alpine species are perfectly comfortable. As a result, an area of shrub landes with saskatoons and junipers, groupings of typical grass as high oats, or still low Moors where Evergreen Astragalus Revels.
•    It was only in a few very cold ubacs or the snow patches that the subalpine installs its floristic vanguard.

"Azonal" vegetation

If the conditions are not directly related to altitude, we talk of azonal vegetation.
So it is in the wet and soggy, areas which are an 'exception' in haute Provence. So are planting willows and poplars that line the rivers and lakes, reedbeds colonizing the most open banks, or the flora of marshes that are all three one subservient to wetlands, all also easily spotted.
Similarly, just as easy to distinguish, very original vegetation of talus and cliffs that must accommodate instability blocks or poor ambient 'minerality' earthen nutrient. Finally, everywhere where the hand of man set foot (!), the procession of cultivated plants and their loved evil companions, the 'weeds' (handy, even if term for that and why the 'bad' deserves a long indignant comment). These seven major vegetation types, defined by a major ecological stress, altitude, availability of water, austerity of the cliffs, scree slopes, human influence mobility, more or less occur preferentially in seven geographical areas present. If you prick in the game, you'll find within each vegetation, other puzzles whose parts correspond to the different environments present in each floor. Finally, within each community, you can track down the processions and associations which vary also subtly that the conditions that define them. You are ripe for Botany. Welcome to the club!

Durance, Asse and Verdon

If this wetland vegetation is common in France (it is not stream water lacking, nor wetter than Provence regions) it remains rare in the Mediterranean region, limited to hems that border rivers or give some fresh lows.
It will take more than value for local botanist, in particularity summer where it changes a little charred Sun mats that are the surrounding hillsides. This vegetation is participating in the richness of the Park.
For a plant at the edge of the water, a priori, any bathes. The foot in the water, which removed a beautiful Thorn (that of the summer drought), would not let live by taking advantage of the manna brought by the river? Too good to be true! First, it is not the only one to have had this idea and the competition is stiff for the place in the Sun. And then you have already tried to push between rollers or in sand? As a river, in Provence, it is capricious and has constantly, every flood, you roll them over the foot, these rollers, you mow the sand or on the contrary to cover you

Distribution of the flora

It is firstly based on water availability, then the major constraint floods, that will divide the flora. Since the thread of water up the hillsides which surround the lake or stream water, soil moisture and the influence of floods decreased (there's no flood in the Lakes, but a tidal issue, at least as difficult to manage for plants). In the most favourable areas on jostling at the gate, making it leading to the problem of light led to fierce competition. Vegetation was ordered following this double gradient (possibly modulated by the nature and the texture of the soil), in parallel edgings dominated by a few species. If it finds its full development at the edge of the Durance, the ASSE or lower Verdon, this vegetation is just however not the only watercourses. Found, more or less changed, once a source of fresh air is available. It can be a lean source, just underlined by the presence of a few rushes or reeds, but also the banks of the restraint of the Verdon Lakes, prairies soggy mountains, rich in sedges, narcissus and troll, or even the very original swamp of the haut Var.

The lower Verdon gorges

Subtly different but contiguous of the haut Var Recalling the great gorges but less deep, near the Durance and the plateau de Valensole but with any other geology, the low gorges claim, rightly, a real identity. One will recognize five environments in which develop quite different species - the cliffs and rubbles, processions - woodland and shrub thickets, - low scrubland and lawns,
•    the Verdon and the shores of the Lakes already described in the first chapter,
•    crops and urban areas on which we will return about the Valensole plateau.
On the hillsides, and following their history (slashing, fire, abandonment of crops) and the nature of the ground, takes place a mosaic of more or less open habitats,
•    These are grass lawns and the garrigues to aromatic for lowest vegetation,
•    Brushy thickets to Oak kermes, cade and CIST for the shrub.
•    and in the Woods, Holm oak and pine of Aleppo, all and all, reflect a still good Mediterranean climate.
But it is the cliffs that it will focus more play acrobats dying of thirst in full heat wave is not given to everyone. Some species however successful the challenge to tame this particularly hostile. Botanists bet "the Phoenician Juniper series" to refer to the procession of these rupicolous species (- rupi, Cliff and -cole, who lives) that grow on the Rocky escarpments (but also on the frankly Rocky soils and steep) dominant most rivers, Alpes-Maritimes in the Vaucluse, between 300 and 800 m. Holm oak and the Phoenician Juniper are accompanied by plants more discrete like spiny spurge or still globularia alypum you will see never far from some Boulder. More surprising (because it is a fern that one typically imagines seep-related), it is also in the cracks of the rocks you will look up (as long as there is still a bit of freshness), the rare Spleenwort of Petrarch.

The great gorges du Verdon

Remarkable assemblage of ecosystems, the great gorges are a world alone. More that the altitudinal range are the peculiarities of the terrain and microclimates that diversify the environments and species. Well flared slopes which dominate the canyon tiering is "classic." Going up the slope of margins (the Summit which dominates the entrance to the gorge on the left bank), we meet first, on the edges of cliffs, green oak. Above, develop the White Oak, then the beech forest and finally, at the top of slope, the beech-fir forest at ifs. In the canyon, is plunging head first that you will find your marks (ultimately, I speak figuratively). Going down the River, light is scarce, the temperature drops and the humidity increases. This particular phenomenon leads to an inversion of the floors of vegetation. Under the Green Oak Grove that frames the other patches the edges of the canyon, found White Oak overlooking a Beech or maple trees from slope. Deep gorges, freed of the constraints Mediterranean, yew found a quasi-montagnarde atmosphere hart's-tongue fern, a semblance of ocean moisture. Added to this already original arrangement is a mosaic of environments defined by the slope or exposure and partioned by terrain. Thus, one can see a few metres away, but separated by some Ridge or break of slope, plants dry dwarf iris as globularia alypum rockeries and the companions of the Beech Grove as the martagon Lily or gnarled geranium.

Highly localized distribution species

The walls themselves have their quota of plants, some common, but, mostly, original. The extreme conditions and the partitioning (limiting genetic Exchange) selected and isolated specific forms and adaptations. Over time of the subspecies and species are individualized (I told them to endemic) which some hold that restricted territories. For the Jahandiez Spleenwort, Villars Rapunzel and the Verdon sandwort, only the grand canyon is worthy of their presence. Others, such as the rare Sedum to smell sweet, specialist of balmes, cinquefoil of the rocks or the purple saxifrage tabs, are a little less exclusive, with a framework of life still limited to the Southern Alps. Ultimately, it is almost an infinite number of circles should remember to capture the richness of the big gorges. Will is here only to group them into four major types that will easily recognize when walks:

Different forest canopies

•    Fresh media: gorges, ravines with water and wet overhangs, sources and tuffs 'active '.
•    The mineral world of coarse boulders and cliffs
•    Vires, flats and Rocky and arid hillsides.

East of du haut var

First foothills of the Alps, the "Switzerland var" owes its name to its climate and the verdant mountainous reliefs of this sector. Rainfall and observed temperatures have a determining role on the nature of the plant formations in allowing the development of dense forests. The average altitude is high (800-1000 m), and two peaks exceed the 1,500 very typical m. and sparsely populated, this mountain territory has retained (or seen recover after agricultural abandonment), essentially forest vegetation, from which emerges, at the top of the Lachens, climax of the sector with 1,715 m, a very original lawn. Depending on the altitude and exposure, white oak, Scots pine, beech or FIR dominate, each with a different procession of species. Two specific formations complete the picture: the flora that host the cliffs and rocky hillsides, and that found in the marshes who occupy more or less marl pits.

The pubescent oak

It houses a shrub procession where the boxwood, omnipresent, is accompanied by the skumpija, Opal Maple or even the more modest cormier, cotoneaster, spurge Laurel or the hepatic dress the undergrowth. If environmental conditions vary or that any hazard is involved (natural or of human action-related) forest clears up or disappears, leaving room to the Moors and lawns
•    Buxaie, pure formation of boxwood, covers the more steep.
•    At his side, genet and fine Lavender Heath 'with its sour broom and his knife (Giono) herbs' covers of large (and quite bleak) spaces.
•    Finally, ultimate stage of 'poverty', a lawn dominated the pinnate broom and bromine erected.
Above the Oak Grove, two types of pine forests to pine.
•    On the dry adrets, pine, which replaces the oak too sensitive to spring frosts, dominates a genet ash and lavender Heath.
•    On the most, moisture, much more important, translates into a humus-rich soil, covered with a carpet of mosses in which grows a flora of saprophytic (plants that feed the matter in decomposition of Lachens. Both, but for balsam fir, well-developed East on humus n flank), pyroles, neottie, coral-root, plantain...
Continuing to rise, we see appear in the most, the beech forest in the western part (Brouis ubac) and l for different reasons - "opacity" of the foliage of beech and fir trees afforestation density - leave get little light in their understory, limiting the development of the lower strata. These conditions however are the delight of a few original species such as the rare Chaix androsace.
Atop the Lachens, a remarkable lawn where "survive", since the withdrawal of glaciers, some frankly mountain, or even alpine plants such as Ranunculus Kupfer and the Furbish.
Finally, four media, related to specific microclimates, host rare species, endemic (they are only at this location) of the region, even in this sector, or southern limit of their range.
The sunny or fresh, cliffs scree, and high rocks, with their specific flores described in major gorges and the pre-Alps areas.
The low landes to Rocky hilltops Villars genet and rocky hillsides.
Marshes and wetlands that abound: Plan of Finiel of the Bastide, Plan of Anelle at La Martre, make the boxwood, Desmueyes, Saint-Pierre at Châteauvieux, Font Freyere in le Bourguet... Field of sedges, there are also some of the most beautiful species of the park such as cottongrass, the rare trolle or the Marsh helleborine.
Ultimate curiosity: exceptional, in the limestone world of the haut Var, exist some small areas to acidified soil or décarbonaté, wet and cool, where can develop Heather and bilberry.

Ride: La Martre -Châteauvieux

This route in a loop is one of the most pleasant summer. Luxuriance (everything is relative, one is still in haute Provence) covered his well wooded brings a shadow (rare in this season) and its gently rolling terrain avoid too big efforts.
Access (map IGN 1/60 000 of the Parc naturel régional du Verdon)
From Castellane follow the driving towards Grasse 12 km, and then in a climb, take a small road to the right (D 52 A) to La Martre and Châteauvieux.
Since Comps, two possibilities:
-reassemble Jabron (D955) where we take right towards Brenon, Châteauvieux and La Martre  (D52),.
- or getting back on La Bastide (D21).
We can make a stop at the chapel of Sainte-Pétronille (carrefour to Bargème) to observe the rocky plateau Northwest where a rich locality of genet of Villars.After the col de Clavel, turn left (D 52) towards La Martre. On garera Châteauvieux or La Martre, where there are landscaped parking lots.
Route (map IGN 1: 25,000: Top 25 3542 OT: Castellane): ± 7 km; ± 100 m altitude.
Marked in green and white, the path begins above the Church of la Martre . Follow it until Châteauvieux. At the exit of Chateauvieux in the direction of Brenon, get off at left (green and white markup) to a small river. Turn left on a small road that brings back on La Martre.


Four settings are available along this route. First are the ruderal plants and "escapement" gardens found in the two villages and their surroundings. But the bulk of the journey is in the shade of a Scots pine forest. You can discover the understory flora and its shades, depending on exposure, the undergrowth density and moisture from the soil. Always pretty clear forest, this pinewood enables the development of two shrubby and herbaceous strata. In the hamlet of La Font du Buis (when it leads to the paved road), hand and side of the road, contains a rich flora cotton grass, grass Parnassus, epipactis palustris, orchis of may, between other sedges.

The alpine foothills

Transitional space between the Alps and the Mediterranean, the Prealps of Castellane are a meeting place between the Alps and the Mediterranean species in a very original set of ecosystems of lawns. The Prealps of Castellane, geologists also speak of "arc of Castellane", present themselves as a succession of limestone ridges Crescent located northeast of the Park. No Summit exceeds the 2,000 m altitude, but several close, the highlight is the Mourre de Chanier with 1,930 Mr. in addition to an eventful topography and pronounced slopes, all these links also have in common an asymmetry between the northern and southern slopes.
•    The most are forest, dominated by pine, Scots pine for natural vegetation, black pine for reforestation. Away from the large cliffs or in moist ravines, moved the beech forest.
•    Hotter, the landscape is marked by the landes boxwood or genet Ashy, punctuated at the bottom by islands of downy oak.
•    Along the rivers, poplar ' plain' made place white Alder and birch sometimes.
•    But the originality of these mountains lies in the vast grassy surfaces that CAP the summits.
These "dry grasslands" consisting of grass, often shaved, are decorated with flowers feature is colored, and pecked high or creeping shrubs. Their particularity is contrasting climatic conditions that they support with an often harsh winter cold, irregular snow and summer drought imposed. Their genesis is closely linked to human history since they result from very old deforestation carried out to increase pasture. "Artificial" formations, they would not remain without the maintenance by the teeth of cattle, the abandonment of grazing quickly resulting in a closure of the environment. Variations in altitude, exposure and terrain draw a specific vegetable mosaic whose every facet includes a floral procession and fauna.
•    In the old meadows abandoned, the turf is dominated by bromine, and often remarkable by abundance of orchids.
•    On the Rocky and sunny slopes rich in Succulents or aromatic species, prosperous high oats. The hilltops in the softer terrain support a more shaved grass, marked by the pads of the Astragalus always green, characteristic of the Mediterranean mountains.
Finally, the uppermost combes and cold corridors where snow persists longer welcome flora where the alpine influence is predominant.
Scree and rocky chaos host a few endemic plants than the Bertoloni Columbine or the submontane dryopteris.
While on the cliffs, cling, following the exhibition, the last Mediterranean elements and species associated with the cold.

Trip 1: The le Poil-Majastres

A walk without difficulty, but its length (over 10 km) reserves for good walkers. The entire route is regularly traversed by herds of sheep by local farmers, allowing to understand the importance of livestock in the maintenance of open landscapes.
Access (map IGN 1/60 000 of the Parc naturel régional du Verdon) between Estoublon and Mezel (D907), a small and tortuous road (D17) leads to Majastres, starting point of this hike.

Walk 2: The Cadieres of Brandis

This route allows to discover, in addition to very beautiful landscapes, the very particular vegetation the scree and the "cold" surfaces where settle Alpine species.
Access (card 1GN 1/60 000 of the Parc naturel régional du Verdon) Park at the col de Leques, between Castellane and Sandra (driving), the trail takes the dirt road which departs westward, in front of the access to the Valley of Sirenia (which we also strongly recommend visiting).
Route (map IGN 1: 25,000: Top 25 3542 OT: Castellane): 6 km, 400 m of height difference. This drive needs to be well shod, there are passages of scree and often a little slippery rocks. Be careful. Follow the road for 1 km until a crossroads. Stay on the main trail to the left and mount (sections of trail allow to cut the «S» of the runway) until the telecommunications relay. Pass in front of the building and find a path which starts on a hillside in the scree. There is more then this trail marked in yellow up to a track that takes on the right to return to the neck of the Lèques.
Botanical this hike presents four of the mountain botanical landscapes of the Park. The climb to the relay is in an old reforestation of black pine, with a 'classical' undergrowth broom, rosehips, Maple... Here and there in the spring, several species of orchids (cephalantheres, neotties, dactylorhizes...). After the relays, the trail crosses a scree at always green oats. The beginning of the descent, in a cliff facing north, allows you to discover a few gems: Dryopteris submontana, several species of saxifrage, Primrose marginatus,... Then, a beech forest which houses the Columbine Bertoloni, daphne and the crocus of the Alps confirming the subalpine character of this area

Protection, Preservation

Know that the NSB has such wealth, it is. The preserve, is even better. Is this observation, neither new nor unique to the Verdon, is originally (from the end of the 19th century) the gradual implementation of measures and procedures for the protection. In addition to the regulations and various measures taken, a few common sense rules allow to enjoy the nature in knowing be forget.

Common sense rules

We can start by asking the question on the need to harvest. If it is to make a bouquet that will wither on the rear window of the car or rot in a bag at the bottom of a closet (and end up in the trash during the spring cleaning), a good photo will most often be a sensible alternative.
In all cases, no harvest plants that are identified, and that are neither rare nor protected. Such species, abundant here, may be actually rare or vulnerable.
And even where it would be a 'trivial' species, think to check if she is not alone for miles round.
Only by respect for those who come after you, cut cleanly with a knife or scissors - in passing, plants speaking of cut, also avoid cutting curves of tracks and trails. Trampling and gullies are two of the main problems posed by the attendance of natural areas.
There are quickly made to have the eyes are bigger than your stomach. For aromatics, a good handful is usually sufficient for a season of kitchen. So, is it really necessary to reap a dumper?
Finally, I hardly dare to say, but the harvests of cans, bottles and other leftovers of end of season picnic grow me, we really cannot leave home with the remains of his Agape? Whereas we do reinvents warm water, legislative and regulatory arsenal is finally repeat these recommendations, but by matching their failure to comply with the judicial wrath.


On the list of species found in the Park, there are a hundred legally protected for which "are prohibited, at all times and throughout the metropolitan territory, the destruction, cutting, mutilation, grubbing-up, picking or removal, hawking, using, offering for sale, sale or purchase of all or part of the wild", (phew!) under penalty of a "fine of EUR 60 000 and to imprisonment for a maximum period of six months or one of. those penalties only ".

A management policy

Prohibit the destruction of a species not used to much if, at the same time, it does not preserve the environment in which it develops. This notion, this first great Act protection of 1976, has long gone unheeded. Under the influence of two European directives, it is now at the heart of all the procedures implemented by different managers. Because of its very purpose, reconcile development and environment, the Park must become involved in regional policy of preservation. He declined it on the basis of issues and actors. The main construction is aimed at setting up a European network called Natura 2000, remarkable spaces. In another area, an act of 1998 began timidly taking account of the impacts of agriculture on the environment. Ultimately aid enjoyed by it will be subject to practices that are more consistent with the maintenance of biodiversity. The Park participates in the development of the specifications of such agriculture. More selectively, it can also finance original actions. Thus, he helped the installation of a young farmer, to la Verdière, through appropriate agricultural practices, allowing the preservation of species messicoles in sharp decline elsewhere.

paddle boat in the Lake Sainte-Croix
Climbing tree
Pont de Galetas
Pont du Roc

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