The Alpilles -
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The Alpilles massif is a mountain massif of low altitude, with the original landscape of limestone white rocks, located in the north-west of the French department of Bouches-du-Rhone. It extends from west to east between Tarascon and Orgon on an area of 50 000 hectares. The Alpilles massif is located in the south of France, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhone (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region), about sixty kilometers north of Marseille. It extends along an east-west axis for about 25 km, from the Rhone valley to the Durance valley. Several summit zones compose it:
- The main part of the massif, called the Alpille (aupiho, "small Alpe") stretches from the chapel of Saint-Gabriel of Tarascon to the road linking Aureille to Eygalières.
- The Opies, to the east of the Alpille, are composed of three small summits: the crests of the Opies, the Mont Menu and the Défends (communes of Eyguières, Lamanon and Aureille).
- The Collines (or rocks of the Pena) are a narrow chain stretching to the south of the massif of which it is separated by the departmental road 17 (Arles-Paradou).
- The Costières, located in the commune of Saint-Martin-de-Crau, are a plateau that marks the southern limit of the massif. The latter gains altitude as one moves northwards, and bows abruptly on the marsh of the Baux, south of the rocks of the Pena.
- The links are a set of low-lying summits (about 50 meters) between Aureille and Montmajour characterized by the sets of valleys they shelter. The Caisses de Jean-Jean are perhaps the best known of these links.
Apart from these peaks, the Alpilles massif is characterized by the presence of several plains:
- The marshes of the Baux, between the Costieres and the rocks of the Pene, with the peripheries populated since Prehistory, present a plane surface dried up during the nineteenth century.
- The plain of Fontvieille, situated to the north and northeast of this commune, owes its existence to the coexistence of the massif with the alluvial deposits of the Rhone. It is today a large triangular zone dedicated to the cultivation of the vine and the olive tree.
- The plain of Roquemartine, on the other hand, lies to the north of Eyguières and presents a severe relief with grassy slopes serving as pasture for the sheep.
- The Plains are an immense plateau operating the junction between the plain of Roquemartine and Notre-Dame de Beauregard (commune of Orgon). This plateau is covered with a bushy green oak forest.
- The plain of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence marks the northern limit of the massif. Sheltering the ancient site of Glanum, this plain is fertile. The painter Vincent van Gogh immortalized the landscape during his stay at the Saint Paul's asylum of Mausole (1889-1890).
- The plain of Eygalières (called "valley of the Pres" as a whole, and "plain of the Calans" for the part south of Eygalières) counts large expanses of olive groves and tends to urbanize more than the rest of the massif .
- The plain of Baux, at the foot of the village of the Baux, is dedicated like the plain of Fontvieille to the culture of the vine and the olive tree.
Concerning the Flora, large populations of conifers are present in the massif with among others the pine of alep and the scots pine. There is also the broom of villars. Several plant species are protected on the territory of the massif, such as the summer nivéole (Leucojum aestivum) or the helianthemum with leaves of marum (Helianthemum lavandulaefolium).
As for wildlife, many avian species nest in the Alpilles. Nearly 250 species of birds are found on the massif, including 25 species of community interest. The most famous are the eagle of Bonelli, the vulture percnoptera, the kestrel and the owl grand-duke. The rocks shelter a kind of lizard emblematic of the Alpilles, the ocellated lizard, also considered threatened and also protected.