The first are the open hot dry sandy heaths known as landes in French. The best examples of these occur in the area between Blois and Orléans called the Sologne and also some places in the Brenne. The vegetation is low and dominated by Heather Calluna vulgaris and Bell Heather Erica cinerea. The heath occurs in small patches and much of it has been lost due to reforestation programmes from the 19th century onwards. Often the heath proper is reduced to trackside verges and little hillocks known as 'buttons'. Nowadays the heathland plants have colonised the understorey of the planted pine forests, but the trees prevent the habitat's old open nature.
As well as the heathers you will see Juniper Juniperus communis, Gorse Ulex europea, Broom Cytisus scoparus, Greenweeds Genista spp , Rockroses Halimium spp, Mountain Sandwort Arenaria montana, Sheeps-bit Jasione montana, Catch-flies Silene spp, Stonecrops Sedum spp and Autumn Squill Scilla autumnalis. Where the tracks through these heaths get waterlogged in winter you can add Annual Gypsophila Gypsophila muralis, Centauries Cicendia and Exaculum and Allseed Radiola linoides.
The second type of heathland is scrubby, dominated by Besom Heath Erica scoparia, which grows up to a couple of metres high and can be very dense. In French this type of heathland are known as brandes, and are mainly encountered in the Brenne. It can have a quite Mediterranean feel and this is where you might come across Tongue Orchid Serapias lingua or Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus in the more open parts.
Associated with the heathlands are small wet pockets of remnant peatland and acid grassland. Here you can find Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum, Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix, Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia, Lesser Scullcap Scutellaria minor, Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica, Pale Butterwort Pinguicula lusitanica, Marsh Gentian Gentiana pneumonanthe, Sundews Drosera spp and Heath Lobelia Lobelia urens.
|A typical Sologne forest habitat, now dominated by planted Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris and Oak Quercus spp.|
|Here you can see how the heathland clings on in the fringes of the forest and tracks.|