Plant species and flowers of the Causses
There is a multitude of varieties thanks to the combination of Mediterranean and mountain climates
Contrasting with the aridity of the Causse, la Cité de Pierres is a prime area for vegetation. The flora of Aveyron, and more particularly that of the Causses, is very diverse (you can find nearly a third of the plant species in all of France there). In the Causses, the shelter of the rocks and the variation in exposures have favoured the development of this particular vegetation. We have therefore listed here only a few of the most characteristic and easily identifiable species.
The Scots pine: This is the main natural species of the Grands Causses. It is not a demanding species, it clings to the rock pushing its roots into the cracks, a real “bonsai” often decorating the top of the rocks.
The beech tree: Uncommon at this altitude, but comfortable with the limestone soils, the beech tree is nevertheless more delicate and looks for humid shaded areas where fog is frequent.
The white oak or pubescent oak: Accustomed to dry and limestone soils, it is a very common tree in Aveyron's flora. It can be found on ridges as well as in ravines. Its deciduous leaves with their characteristic white down, dry on the tree in autumn but often fall only in spring, under the weight of the buds.
The hazelnut tree: This tree is very common in sheltered areas and particularly at the foot of large rocky massifs.
The Sorb tree: This species, characteristic of the Causses, spreads the foliage of its silvery leaves in summer and grows succulent berries in autumn.
Boxwood: Boxwood is a very common species amongst the flora of the Aveyron, it is found everywhere in thick, glossy bushes. The nectar of its flowers is highly sought after by bees.
Juniper: Junipers are almost as common as boxwood, particularly comfortable growing on the Dolomites. They plant their thorny cones everywhere, encasing the delicate berries that thrushes love....and are also seen in local cuisine.
Saskatoon berry: In May, the white flowers of these common shrubs make it seem as though there has been a recent snowfall, depending on how the light falls on them.
Dogwood: This shrub is commonly found under oak trees, it produces white flowers from May to June, followed by large, shiny black berries that wild boars love.
Bearberry: This small shrub covers the ground in a thick, bright green, leafy carpet, and is covered with large red berries at the end of the summer. In spring, one can see delicate little bells on the shrub.
Still classified as shrubs despite their bushy tuft-like appearance, thyme, lavender and dorycnium give the air in the area a pleasant scent, with their fragrant flowers that also give the honey of the causses such a distinctive taste.
The flowers of the Causses
Every spring, the flowers of the Causses start to bloom. They add colour to the grass, dotted with the delicate purple of pulsatile anemones with a heart of sulphur or the gold of Adonis. Euphorbias add soft green and yellow touches everywhere.
The long stems of the asphodels can be seen on the side of embankments, with large clusters of white flowers at the top.
Orchids and orphreys: They come in all types and colours, which are plentiful and easy to find if you know what to look for. In cooler corners, it is not uncommon to find splendid blue bellflowers.
Long-leaved Cephs (Cephalanthera): Later on in the year, the alpine asters with their purple tones flower.
Mountain Anthyllis, white or pink rockroses with crumpled petals and feathers which are more poetically called angel hair, whose long feathery edges fly in the wind like thousands of white plumes.
Finally, the acanthus-leaved carlina, the cardabelle of the caussenards, this "causse rose" spreads its golden rays on the ground from the end of July to September.