What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?




The presence of winds and the nature of the ground have contributed to this site becoming a unique and complex place where only a limited range of plants can thrive.
 
These plants reduce their transpiration and store water as cacti do in the desert. They have thick fleshy stems and their tissues act as reservoirs. They adapt to the environment.
 
Couch grass abounds on the dune but leaves room for thorny and blue tumbleweed, robust beach grass, sea bindweed and even the protected helichrysum which perfumes the air.
These plants suffer from trampling but are resistant to bad weather and drought.
We must ensure the protection of these plants as they are so essential to the sustainability of this sensitive environment.
 
The foreshore at the foot of the dune is formed by the actions of the waves on the beach depositing animals and vegetation along the tideline. This line is a natural phenomenon.  Many insects and small crustaceans, such as the beach flea, come to feed. They are then themselves eaten by birds like the ruddy turnstones.
 
The foreshore is part of the beach ecosystem.
 
The tracks of animals and even insects are a proof of their presence on the dune.
 
Beneath the large ferns of the forest, the soil nourishes dense undergrowth which maintains the humidity.
 
Shrubs or fruit bushes - honeysuckles, brambles, hawthorns, berry and holly - feed the animals from season to season.
 
Broad bark "bottle-shaped pine trees", ancient oaks with hollow branches and dead wood are indispensable as food stores and shelters.
 
Chickadees, nuthatches, hoopoes, dormice, owls, bats, civets, martens and wild hives live in holes enlarged over the years.


In the forest

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : maritime pine
Latin name : Pinus pinaster

Family group : Pinaceae 

Vegetative characters :  this Aquitaine conifer from the pine tree group has a dislocated look. Its thin trunk, 20 to 30 meters high, is covered in a thick, cracked, reddish bark rising to the sky with a sparse top. Stiff prickly long dark green needles grouped in pairs. Its fruit is the pine. Flowers April-May.

Chronicle : It is a monoecious species (male and female reproductive cells on the same level). Reproduction takes place through pollen carried by the wind.

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Arbustus berry
Latin name : Arbustus unedo

Family group : Ericaeae

Vegetative characters: Shiny evergreen shrub with clustered white bell flowers. Blooms in October-November along with its fruits and constitutes the main part of the dune pine forest undergrowth.

Chronicle : The arbutus berry is red, edible and rich in vitamin C. Jam or stewed fruit is made out of it, and once a liqueur, the Ledounat, was made from it too.
Rich in tannin, the arbustus is pretty bland but edible. It is said that the Latin name "unedo" comes from its poor taste: unum edo "I eat only one"!

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Hoopoe 
Latin name : Upupa epops

Family group : Upupidae

Characteristics : This bird has a beautiful rainbow-coloured plumage and a long and slightly arched beak. It lives and nests in the forest's hollow trees. Visits in summer, feeds on insects and lays from April to June (5-7 eggs). 

Chronicle : After hatching, the chicks' excrement spreads a foul smell, making the nest easy to find. 

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Deer
Latin name : Capreolus capreolus

Family group : Cervidae 

Characteristics : : Although small in size,  it is the queen of the Landes forest species. Its non-spotted coat is reddish-brown in summer and grey-brown in winter (with a yellowish hair area in summer and white in winter on its buttocks). Only males wear antlers. It feeds on the dune pine forest undergrowth; it is fearful and curious and is more likely to be seen at sunrise and sunset. 

Chronicle : In early spring, once the males have marked out their territories, they no longer tolerate any other adult male and assert their supremacy with strong barking.
Their large ears allow them to capture sounds at a great distance. Their sense of smell is highly developed and makes up for their poor vision which mainly sees movement. 

 

Du côté de la dune

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Sand everlasting 
Latin name : Helichrysum arenarium

Family group : Asteraceae 

Vegetative characters : This perennial herbaceous  plant is a protected species. It grows in the sand, is 20 to 50cm high with flat spear-shaped leaves covered in white hairs. Its fragrant yellow flowers bloom from July to September.

Chronicle : In summer on the night of St. Jean and after a ritual bath, the farmers of the Landes would pick these flowers and make a cross with them to place above the door in order to ward off evil. Medicinal properties: digestive disorders, hematoma, etc.

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Marram grass , Beach grass of Aquitaine 
Latin name : Ammophila arenaria

Family group : Poaceae 

Vegetative characters : Typical to sand dunes and visible all year, it is a robust green-yellow grass growing from 60 to 120cm high. Constantly subjected to coastal winds; it starts blooming in May and seed heads in July.

Chronicle : Its leaves roll up on themselves thus avoiding excessive water loss.  It is used by man to fix the sand in order to slow erosion.

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Linaria thymeleaf
Latin name : Linaria thymifolia

Family group : Scrophulariaceae

Vegetative characters : This small plant with small, thick, green and oval leaves  grows on the coastal sands. Its flowers are bright yellow clusters mixed with orange. Blooms from May to August.

Chronicle : This national protected species should be admired but not picked.  It exists nowhere else in the world apart from the Aquitaine coast to the île d'Oléron.

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Kentish plover 
Latin name : Charadrius alexandrinus

Family group : Charadriidae

Characteristics : : Small  migratory bird with  grey-brown and white plumage. Its beak, legs and half collar are black. Arrives in April to breed and leaves in September. It settles in the middle of the dune's grasses to hide from predators, and feeds on small invertebrates at low tide. 

Chronicle : Its breeding is rare in France and is protected by law.  It is threatened mainly by human disturbance and coastal development.

What kind of life does the Grand Site shelter?
Common name : Cockchafer foulon or Beetle pine 
Latin name : Polyphylla fullo

Family group : Scarabaeidae 

Characteristics : Harmless insect, 4 cms long, typical of coastal dunes. It lives buried in the ground, especially at the base of tufts of beach grass.  It can be seen flying at dusk. Its larvae feed on the roots of dune plants.  The adult prefers the young shoots of pine trees.

Chronicle : It can make a loud grating sound (stridulating) when seized.