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March 2012 – A botanical walk in the Calanques with Gérard Weiner

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On a bright and beautiful morning in March, twenty-five of us and a well-behaved dog gathered in the hills between Marseille and Cassis for a walk along rocky tracks, through scrubby pine woods, to the sea.

Walking towards Mount Puget

We were led by a passionate plant hunter, Gérard Weiner of the Pépinière Botanique de Vaugines. Gérard often comes here to this protected site with a very specific ecosystem to collect seeds for propagation. The soil covering on the limestone is almost non-existent and plant roots are anchored by the numerous faults and fissures in the rock. On this walk he was leading our group and also hoping to find a particular plant, Pistacia x saportae, a natural hybrid of P. lentiscus and P. terebinthus.

Gérard had prepared a list of about 40 plants that he thought we might find, and indeed, many of them were growing beside the path:

Rhamnus alaternus
Cistus albidus
Globularia alypum
Senecio cineraria
Ulex parviflorus (L’Ajonc de Provence)
Staehelina dubia
Erica multiflora
Euphorbia characias
Sedum sediforme

We ate our picnic lunch in the Calanque de Sugiton, overlooking a glittering but rough sea.

Suddenly Gerard’s eyes lit up, he had spotted a small plant. “Voilà! C’est l’hybride pistacia!” He was happy and so were we.

Text: Christine Daniels
Photos: Hubert Nivière