Throughout February the heavy scent of Mimosa is everywhere as the Route d'Or turns golden yellow as thousands of Mimosa trees come into flower.
The Route d’Or starts at Mandelieu La-Napoule and stretches up to Tanneron and across to Lac de St-Cassien in the Var. Tanneron is the capital of the Mimosa and celebrates this incredible tree once a year in February. Winter time is when these tiny cotton wool balls of yellow fluff burst into life – and fragrance.
Dependent on the weather, flowers can come into bloom as early as December; different mimosa varieties flower at different times thus causing a continuation of flowering right through to April although February is by far the best month. The valleys are awash with different shades of yellow (as the buds open and die) and the fragrance wafts through the air.
“La Fête de Mimosa” is widely celebrated here in the south of France. Tanneron, Biot, Mandelieu, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Fréjus and a host of other towns and villages decorate their houses, town halls and shops – in fact anything that will hold a few sprigs of Mimosa.
A multitude of wonderful parades, exhibitions, costume balls and other marvellous festivals are held throughout the flowering period. Postcards, soaps, perfumes and other touristic trinkets are on sale – not just then but all year round; Mimosa, like Olive Oil, Lavender and the Cigale is the symbol of the south of France
Not all mimosa bloom at the same time; some trees come into flower earlier (or later) than others (it is dependent on the weather – hard frost will kill them). And this makes for the enchanting vision. But it is more enchanting as the Mimosa trees grow wild and on “restanques” (terraced slopes). The higher you climb – the more you look down on this sea of colour.
The Route d’Or is a steep, narrow road but there are places you can stop to admire the view. And the view is magical – the air filled with fragrance.
This is a special route, and it is difficult to describe just how incredible the scenery really is. In the beginning the drive is very steep – and then past Tanneron the road dips down and the view changes yet again. The hilly slopes are covered in varying shades of yellow and it’s just amazing.
And then, all of a sudden, there’s a sudden glimpse of Lac de St-Cassien and the view is utterly wonderful.
Tanneron is a northern extension of the Esterel and consists of 5,278 hectares and includes 22 hamlets; with about 1,320 inhabitants. It’s highest point is “Gaëte” which is 519 metres and overlooks the Bay de Cannes and Mandelieu La-Napoule.
Growing amongst the Mimosa are Eucalyptus trees; enjoying the same climate, soil and temperature as the Mimosa. This is mainly clever business sense; if one “crop” fails – there is another to fall back on.
Mimosa (a fairly thorny tree) was introduced into the Mediterranean region from Australia in 1839 and first mentioned near Cannes in 1864. Finding climatic conditions to its liking, it then proceeded to invade the slopes of the Tanneron Massive. Although much continues to grow wild, private cultivation of this amazing tree has brought financial success to the region. There are three main varieties of Mimosa tree; Silver Wattle, Blue-leaved Wattle and, the most common variety growing in the region, Four-seasons Wattle which grows in huge swathes and flowers all year round.