Plan d’Aups Sainte-Baume, Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park, Var, South Region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
From its 1,148 metres, the Sainte-Baume mountain dominates the Basse-Provence region. At the foot of the cliff, where the major pilgrimage site of Mary-Magdalene’s cave lies, grows an exceptional ancient beech forest, most unusual for this latitude. It offers a place of respite and healing in the Sainte-Baume Regional Natural Park.
© Georges Flayols
The southernmost in continental France, Plan d’Aups beech forest is an exceptional thousand-year-old forest. Owing its preservation to the Kings of France since the 11th century, this mossy, damp, bright and shady forest enjoys a microclimate that is favourable to the surprising presence of sometimes centuries-old tree species in a Mediterranean context, as well as a broad range of life forms, such as lignicolous fungi, bacteria, moulds, protozoa, microfauna, and arthropods. In the Mediterranean region, the forest is considered to be the third-richest in beetles, home to 5 out of 11 of species listed in the European Directive from which arose the network of Natura 2000 sites! It is a refuge for great Capricorn beetles, Rosalia longicorns, European stag beetles, violet click beetles, and hermit beetles. The beech forest’s hollow trees are also essential to feeding and nesting birds such as black woodpeckers, and make ideal bat roosts for Bechstein’s bat. For this reason and many others, in 2018 the Sainte-Baume forest was the tenth French forest to receive the Office national des forêts’“Forêt d’exception®” label.