The queen of the area is
the sweet chestnut. Planted out on terraces banked with dry-stone walls
('bancels') , many majestic centuries-old specimens scatter the
landscape. The chestnut was the powerhouse of the area, providing man
with his traditional source of food and warmth for much of the year
(chestnut flour is still available). Their strong and attractive wood
provided timber for most of France's historic houses. Many coppiced
chestnut groves can still be found, nowadays providing supports for
vines rather than for pit-shafts of the now dis-used mines.
The pine was eagerly
introduced in the mid-19th century, but has proved an ecological
disaster as it invades the chestnut groves, advancing up the slopes
to take over the heathland pastures, blotting out the ecological
niches for wildlife.
Cherry and snowy white
Amelanchier trees are a colourful spring spectacle on the limestone
slopes, and the vivid yellow and lime greens of several maple species
in early spring is matched only by their brilliant golds and reds
come the autumn. The occasional aging mulberry tree bears witness to
the former thriving silk trade that enriched the area.