This April, in a change to the previously planned Sicily tour for Greentours Natural History Holidays, Alice will be joining Paul Cardy to lead a tour to Corsica.
Scenically attractive Corsica has long held an interest to naturalists, there are many elegantly penned articles from a bygone era with prose redolent of aromatic maquis and dramatic gorges.
We hope to tread in their footsteps as we explore the rich diversity that this mountain in the sea has to offer. To the west of Ajaccio, brick pink granitic cliffs sweep down to the sea where yellow Calicotome villosa dominates maquis that has a rich flora including Convolvulus sicula and Succowia balearica. Southern coastal limestone is home to beautiful Erodium corsicum, endemic Morisia monanthos, and fine hummocks of Astragalus massiliensis. Orchids include Orchis laxiflora and bee orchids such as Ophrys morisii, Ophrys marmorata and Ophrys lutea corsica. Corsican Dappled White and the Corsican Swallowtail are on the wing as we stop by roadsides dotted with Green-winged and Pink Butterfly Orchids.
Cytinus hypocistus’s yellow flowers glow from crimson bracts amongst Cistus, and in meadows there are displays of Serapias hardly matched elsewhere in the Mediterranean with large-flowered Serapias cordigera and Serapias neglecta and the common Serapias lingua. In the mountainous interior, extensive Corsican Pine forests are home to the endemic Corsican Nuthatch, and a second endemic bird, Corsican Finch is rather common, especially amid Sweet Chestnut woods. Endemics continue with the rare Tyrrhenian Tree Frog, European Leaf-toed Gecko, and Pygmy Algyroides.
In the south Kerry Lily blooms, and the broomrapes Orobanche rigens and Orobanche sanguinea are both beautiful richly-coloured species. Narcissus tazetta and Romulea requienii decorate rocky crevices and shorelines have much Matthiola tricuspidata, Medicago marina,and purple-streaked Silene sericea. Moving inland we’ll find Brimeura fastigata and Pancratium illyricum, which unlike its more widespread European cousin flowers far up into the mountains.
Cyclamen repandum blooms at all altitudes,with Corydalis pumila at higher passes amid a selection of gageas, and slopes covered with pretty lilac Crocus corsicus, the outside of the flowers etched with deep purple lines. Fabulous mounds of Saxifraga cervicornisadorn shaded rocks in a narrow gorge where Armeria leucocephala, Saxifraga corsica, Arenaria balearica, and Orchis olbiensis bloom.
On the east coast we will see the endangered Anchusa crispa at one of its remaining sites. Our hotel in the Gorges du Restonica sits beside the cascading river, Helleborus argutifolius flowering abundantly nearby.