Sunflowers in Provence Near the Fortress of Mornas
Last July, we went to Provence for the first time in a while. Although I wrote about our favourite things in Provence shortly before our trip, seasonal “floral” attractions such as red poppies, lavender, and sunflowers are high on our list.
Since July is sunflower season, we set off one morning to look for sunflower fields around the town of Orange. We had been told there were large sunflower fields north of Orange, and while we were there, we should take the time to hike up to the Fortress of Mornas. Continue reading here for Michel’s photos of beautiful sunflower fields in Provence and the fortress’s history.
Sunflowers in Provence
The French word tournesol translates into ‘turn to the sun.’ In reality, young plants do track circadian rhythms. However, well before full maturity, the plants no longer turn with the daily cycles of the sun. Instead, the stems stand rigid as the sunny flowers face east.
The sunflower is a large composite flower supported by a sturdy coarse stem and sharp leaves. Petal florets surround the outer part of the head. These are commonly yellow but can also be orange, red and other mixed colours. Florets packed in a spiral pattern, maximizing the number of seeds on the flower’s interior. These florets produce the seeds used for oil and other nutritional uses.
Although the seeds produce 80% of the crop value when pressed to create sunflower oil, the entire plant is valuable. Fibre from the stem is turned into paper. After the seed extraction, the remaining leaves and the “cake” become animal feed.
When you visit LUMA Arles, make sure to stop by the Drum Café, where there the wall covering is made with sunflower stems.
Fortress of Mornas
While the village of Mornas, in the Vaucluse, is not on the typical Provence tourist itinerary, if you have driven on the Autoroute du Soliel (A7), you have passed the town without realizing it. Located north of Orange, squished between the A7 and the Route Nationale 7 (RN 7) and a 137-metre rock outcrop, you find Mornas. This town is home to 2,400 people (2019 number) is a narrow linear strip paralleling the highway.
The ruins of a medieval fortress overlook the town from a cliff, which was also the location of a Roman-era outpost. Present-day, a pastoral view of the Rhône Valley stretches below you from this historic monument. However, the feudal fort was built for defensive purposes in the 12th-century for the Earl of Toulouse. It’s about a 15-minute steep hike to the ruins passing an 11th-century chapel and cemetery along the way.
Fortress of Mornas Visitor Info:
Association Les Amis de Mornas is a local group who have been restoring the site since 1978.
4, rue Thinel
Telephone +33 (0)4 90 37 01 26
Closed Wednesdays and on weekends.