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Nature: The Luberon Regional Nature Park

Nature: The Luberon Regional Nature Park

Vaucluse mountain range with diversified natural heritage

The Luberon Regional Natural Park is a low-lying mountain range that extends from east to west between the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and the Vaucluse and includes three "mountains": the eastern Luberon, the Grand Luberon and the Little Luberon. It is home to an exceptionally diverse fauna and flora, as well as an architectural and landscape heritage of great value. It was created on February 10, 1977 and comprises 77 municipalities, with an area of ​​185,145 hectares. The most important cities are Apt, Cavaillon, Forcalquier, Manosque and Pertuis.

 

Its natural heritage is of extreme diversity:

- The garrigue: One encounters the scrubland, an arid limestone soil characterized by a vegetation of scrub on the southern side of the Luberon. In fact, rocky calcareous soils favor the bushy formations of shrubs and herbaceous, typical of the garrigue. However, the nature of the soil determines the type of garrigue that grows there. The soft soils allow the garrigue dominated by the Kermes oaks to develop, while the compact soils more easily welcome a type dominated by rosemary. This type of flora is home to two interesting species: the ocellated lizard, the largest lizard in Europe (60 cm), which can be seen in the male during the breeding season a change in flank colors, blue ocelli. The Etruscan pachyurus is the smallest mammal in the world (1.5 to 2 grams per 6 cm) and lives mainly in the garrigue, but it can also be found in dwellings and wasteland. Shaped by climatic constraints (wind, summer drought, low winter temperatures) and grazing of the herds, the lawns of the ridges present a relief covered with low or creeping vegetation. At first glance, this austere vegetation carries in the spring a carpet furnished with tufts of grasses (ovine fescue, brome ereum, etc.), to which are associated, in a colored fireworks, different kinds of orchids the male orchis or ophrys of Bertolon, which is a protected species), the broom of Villars or the inules of the mountains. In the midst of this profusion of flowers, a large number of lepidoptera (butterfly family), including a protected species: the Apollo, with straw-yellow wings mottled with black and red spots.

- The lawn of the ridges: made up of low or crawling plants, the lawns of the Luberon ridges result from the action of the herds but also from an adaptation to climatic constraints: wind, summer drought and low temperatures of winter . But the profusion of flowers in spring, among the tufts of grasses (ovine fescue, brome erect ...), transforms these places into a natural garden where certain orchids, such as the male orchid or the ophrys of Bertolon (protected species) .

 

- Chênaie: The green oak is the emblematic species of southern Mediterranean Mediterranean, since it constitutes, with the pine of Alep and the junipers, the dominant species of the garrigue. It can be found in the same way in most countries bordering the Mediterranean (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). However, it can adapt to a non-Mediterranean climate if it is well exposed. Today, the green oak is advancing towards the north in the valley of the Rhone. It is found more and more frequently on slopes well exposed to the north of Valence (Drôme). Oak or White Oak, Truffle Oak or Oak of Provence (Quercus pubescens) is a species of deciduous trees in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere belonging to the family Fagaceae. Its name comes from the Latin pubescens: short hairy and soft (lower face of the leaves and young twigs). It is an adaptation of the tree to drought. This species forms clear woods or develops in the wasteland, on the limestone soils of hillsides. With oak and oak oak, pubescent oak, also called truffle oak, is one of the main species of oak used for truffle cultivation.

- Cliffs and gorges: The very varied relief of the Luberon is the sign of a rich and turbulent geological history, readable in numerous rock outcrops. These rupestrian facies have spectacular forms: steep cliffs, dizzying canyons, caves, rocky peaks or even scree, discovered by strolls in this arid landscape, kingdom of birds of prey.

 

- Cédraie: The cedar forest of the Luberon is located in the Petit Luberon, western part of the massif. There is another "cedar forest" in the commune of Cabrières-d'Avignon, north of the village. The cedar tree covers about 250 hectares on the summit crest of the Luberon massif. It is accessed from Bonnieux following the direction of Lourmarin, by the Lourmarin valley. In summer, the access is paying, except for the inhabitants of the commune of Bonnieux. It is a vast summit where a stand of cedars was sown from 1861 thanks to seeds harvested in the Middle Atlas, by some convinced foresters, associated with the municipalities of Bonnieux, Lacoste and Ménerbes, who provided the manpower . The first mature trees began to reproduce from 1920. Around 1930, there were 60 hectares of cedars. The most important extension occurred after the fire of 1952, only the heart of the cedar tree being spared. The ridge of the Petit Luberon was made up of large lawns and woods. These lawns, which constitute a firewall, have been used for centuries pastures for flocks of sheep, which, in turn, provide manure. The introduction of Atlas cedars (Cedrus Atlantica) was a remarkable achievement. These cedars have spread naturally, especially towards the northern slope, which is less dry. The flora is very rich. There are among other things the dwarf iris, the bark of the roofs, the autumnal scroll, the inule of the mountains and the abundance of the broom of Villars or several varieties of wild orchids such as the male orchis or the ophrys of Bertolon which is a protected species.

 

- Fossils: The Oligocene limestones, in fine plates, of the Luberon deliver in certain sites a very remarkable fossil fauna and flora. Vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish), insects (dragonflies, butterflies ...) and plants (leaves, seeds, flowers ...), perfectly preserved in their finest structures, testify to rich lake environments and diversified during the tertiary era. Other sites provide fossil bones of primitive mammals (horses, elephants, gazelles ...). Elsewhere, the footprints of rhinoceros, hyenas, chevrotains and birds have been preserved on the surface of several limestone slabs.

 

The built heritage of the Luberon offers tours for all tastes:

- There are bories there. The term borie, in the tourist language relative to Provence, refers to a dry-stone hut that served as a barn, stable or seasonal dwelling to a 19th-century farmer in a parcel of land (in another municipality) or too far from his farm. The vestiges of a seasonal or temporary rural stone dwelling which their village or fairground owners had previously called "cabanes" and "cabanons" have been given an obsolete designation which, in Provence, to permanent dwellings, and which only remained in the state of rare toponyms. The term was taken up by Pierre Desaulle in the 1960s with his book Les bories de Vaucluse, by Pierre Viala, creator of the "Village des Bories" in the 1970s and finally by the Regional Natural Park of the Luberon in the years 1990, with the book Bories. Number of communes in Vaucluse include dry stone huts: Bonnieux (more than 200), Buoux, Ménerbes, Murs, Saignon, Saumane, Venasque (240), Viens, Villes-sur-Auzon. A remote district of Gordes (Vaucluse), known as the Savournins Bas on the Napoleonic cadastre and still called familiarly "Les Cabanes" by the inhabitants of the vintage in the 1970s, became in 1976 an open-air museum of this type of constructions under the name "Village of the Bories." Before this, no place-name the boris / bories in Provence did not designate a place where are huts of dry stone.

 

- The mills: first driven by the strength of man, by that of animals, then by that of water and, finally, that of wind, the mill lives, from antiquity to the Middle Ages, its functions - olive breaking, madder preparation, pressing of sheets - and played a major role until the appearance of steam engines. The windmill (Goult) adapts particularly well to the land of the mistral and its silhouette is now emblematic of the landscape of Provence. The oil mills (Joucas, Rustrel, Gordes, Saint Saturnin): The millstone, driven by a mule, reduces the olives into dough. This is then placed on a manually operated press. This type of mill was found in every Provencal village.

 

- The perched villages of the Luberon to discover: Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbes, Lacoste, Ansouis ...

 

- The road of the castles: Ansouis, La Tour d'Aigues, Lourmarin: To read their history, what strikes immediately is the perfect similarity of their origin. All the properties of the Counts of Forcalquier, then of the family of Sabran who will no longer leave Ansouis, all three medieval castles transformed to the Renaissance to satisfy the privacy, all three struck in the nineteenth century by the almost abandoned, ruin even for Lourmarin and La Tour d'Aigues, their destiny leads them today, at the dawn of their thousandth anniversary, to marry so that none of their guests visit one without visiting the other two , traveling along our beautiful villages on the slopes of the Luberon called Pays d'Aigues, the paths of their very old history.