Driving around the French Riviera from late January to March you’ll see a riot of yellow flowering trees everywhere as it’s mimosa season on the Côte d’Azur. This beautiful bright golden flower, known as wattle in its native country Australia, is one of the best things about winter in the region.
Mimosa Season on the Côte d’Azur
Mimosa is the first flower to bloom every year, offering a glimpse of spring. The glorious little balls of yellow fluff resembling miniature suns, herald the end of winter sometime around mid to late January. At Lou Messugo our tree is nearly always out in time for Australia Day on January 26th and though I probably couldn’t tell you exactly when most of our plants flower, of this I’m sure. Why? Because I’m half Aussie and mimosa comes from down under. Wattle is Australia’s national flower so it seems appropriate that it should bloom for its national holiday.
Mimosa’s origins in Australia
Mimosa was originally brought back from Australia in the mid 19th century by aristocratic English travellers who spent their winters on the Riviera. They thought the climate would suit it and they were right; those first few specimens have now spread to become the largest mimosa forest in Europe just outside Mandelieu in the Massif de Tanneron.
The delicate golden orbs that make up the flower have a lovely light perfume which contributed greatly to the development of the perfume industry in nearby Grasse. Nowadays mimosa is still very much used in the production of perfume and also for the cut flower industry. It is exported all around the world from France and one third comes from the Mandelieu area. It’s the staple income for many villages nearby and to celebrate this vital contributor to the local economy Mandelieu has a Mimosa Festival every year in February.
Explore the mimosa forest
To really get a feel of the enormity of the mimosa forest and to envelop yourself in its beauty you need to walk on one of the many signed paths in the Massif or take a scenic drive from Mandelieu-La Napoule. Head out of the town on the D92, enjoying the gorgeous panoramic view of the coast, across Cannes to the Lérins islands and over to the mountain peaks. The road then penetrates through the heart of the forest to the village of Tanneron passing many of the hiking trails (recognisable by their wooden signs, click here for detail).
Route du Mimosa
Leave Tanneron on the sinuous D38 that winds down to St Cassien Lake offering lovely views over the Siagne valley and the forest. From Lac St Cassien follow signs back to the A8 to return along the motorway, itself bordered by the magnificent trees. For a longer drive start at Bormes les Mimosas and follow the official tourist route, the Route du Mimosa, 130 kms from Bormes to Grasse.
Walk in the forest
Every year we go for at least one walk in the mimosa forest during the season. One year we went just after a heavy snowfall which created a huge amount of damage. There were broken branches and collapsed trees everywhere. Thankfully the following year there was little sign of such destruction.
There are many signed walks in the forest, just pick one and go. Walking along a ridge looking over the trees the views are superb: patches of yellow in the green or acres of solid yellow unlike any forest view I’ve ever seen, truly unique. In photos it can be hard to see the difference from autumnal images of leaves turning yellow but in reality, it’s totally different, unbelievably pretty, and much more impressive than my photos suggest.
Have you seen a mimosa forest? Do you know your country’s national flower? I’d love to hear from you.
This post was originally published in March 2013 and has been updated
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