sacred forest

sacred forest


New discoveries

New species are still being discovered and protected like a tiny snail 2mm long called Vertigo angustior.

Some of the emblematic fauna of the cliffs:

Bonelli’s eagle, peregrine falcon, eagle-owl, both rock thrushes, Provençal cricket, chamois, longhorn beetles, raven and crag martin.

Some of the emblematic fauna of the forest:

Roe deer, genet, aesculapian snake, black woodpecker, short-toed eagle,

North to South

Light and shade

The contrast between the North and the South of the territory, between the shade and the slope of the mountain, is striking: in the shade, the cliff dominates a very old forest, humid and fresh, composed of beeches, oaks, lime trees, maples On the Adret, the gently sloping, dry and sunny slope is dominated by scrubland and Mediterranean woods of Aleppo pine and holm oak.
Life on the edge

Hanging gardens of Baume

Imagine a world without water, without soil, exposed to the most violent winds, to seasonal or daily temperature swings passing quickly from the coldest to the hottest. A place where life can only reach it by air or by their climbing talents, or that day after day, all your efforts to create a somewhat comfortable place for yourself is reduced to nothing but rubble.

You are then in the rupestrian world (from the Latin rupes: the rock). Well, this world is home for many species and sometimes the only one where they are competitive enough to survive.

In this world of rock, each crack, fault, boulder or ledge is a godsend for certain plant species which face less competition here than elsewhere.

A bolt from the blue

The peregrine falcon is a large and powerful falcon. It has long, broad, pointed wings and a relatively short tail. It is blue-grey above, with a blackish top of the head and an obvious black ‘moustache’ that contrasts with its white face. Its breast is finely barred. It is swift and agile in flight, chasing prey. In fact it is the fastest bird on the planet when plummeting in a dive called a stoop. It can reach speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph) as it drops toward its unexpected victim.

No lesser emperor

Smaller than its illustrious cousin, the purple emperor but not lesser in any other sense.The Lesser Purple Emperor is a superb summer butterfly which is found in mature woodland close to water. It flies in two broods, contrary to its similar single-brooded cousin, from which it can be distinguished by the presence of the red ‘ocellus’ on the upper forewing and the lack of a ‘tooth’ in the white band of the upper hindwing. Male emperors have a strong purple sheen on the uppersides which is visible from certain angles and is often observed on one side only.

Hello boys

A new species for the Sainte-Baume Regional Nature Park

It is a rather common orchid in France but particularly rare, even thought absent in the Mediterranean area. So finding it in the Park is a real surprise. It is a good example of mimicry between a flower and its specific pollinating insect. In this case the stooge is a hymenoptera (sawflies, wasps, bees & ants), of the genus Argogorytes (wasps).

Nature is amazing, please get out and explore.

Just passing through

The Dotterel 

Handsome plover with a gentle, dove-like face. Breeding plumage distinctive, with bold white eyebrow, white breast band above rusty-orange belly with black centre. Nonbreeding plumage buffy overall, with whitish eyebrow and breast band. A bird of dry upland habitats: breeds on moorland and tundra.  Migrants occur here on mountain tops at times in small groups, especially in spring. Often rather tame, but inconspicuous.

Knock on wood

Black Woodpecker

Unmistakable large, crow-sized woodpecker, all black with a red crown, which is reduced in females. Powerful, straight, and rather flappy flight without the undulations of other woodpeckers. Very noisy, with a strident “ke-yaa” given when landing or perched and a “krry-krry-krry” call uttered in flight. Found in a range of forest types, especially older mixed forest.

Myths and Legends

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your sacred forest grow

A crippled ship bobs helplessly on a storm-tossed sea and those on board face certain death, but then a miracle occurs. Guided by the hand of God, the ship arrives safely on the shores Provence. Out steps Mary Magdalene, ready to spread The Word throughout France. Isn’t that straight from the pages of  Dan Brown?

That mythical beach landing in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the camargue has endured for centuries and according to legend  Mary Magdalene then joined Lazarus and helped him convert the people of Marseille to Christianity. She, then continued on, to the mountains further east, where she settled in a lonely grotto and spent decades in prayer and penance. 

You can visit this beautiful site, it’s now managed by the Dominican order, but be sure to bring sturdy shoes because it’s a 45-minute uphill walk to get there. Look out for the other sacred creatures around too.

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