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30 May, 2013

Sauvegarde Lavandes Provence

by Paige Donner

(Originally published on Digital Journal HERE)

Lavender is being threatened by insects that have also preyed on crops such as tobacco and tomatoes. Learn about the history of lavender and how advocacy groups are trying to save it from devastation.
You might not be aware of the fact that much of the world's production of fine lavender, the kind that is used in the finest perfumes and the finest body care products, such as those made by L'Occitane, is grown in France's Haute-Provence.
The region of Haute-Provence is part of the Cote d'Azur Alpes region of southern France. These high plateaus where the fine lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is grown, however, is an area of Provence just north of Aix-en-Provence that has remained just out of arm's reach of the mass influx of sun-worshipping tourists Provence has seen in the past decades... ever since the nearby town of Arles was made so famous by master painters like Van Gogh.
Unfortunately, though, the lavender has not remained out of harm's way, despite its elevated isolation. It has been under threat by a little insect, a sort of cicada known to scientists as "Hyalesthes obsoletus" that has been flourishing during the increase of heat waves and dry spells that the region has experienced since 1987, and in particular since 2003 when the region felt that extreme heat wave that spanned Europe. The insect thrives on... you guessed it, lavender.
Allow me to give a bit of a background here on lavender and just how important a crop this is to the region. First of all, picture in your mind those idyllic photos of lakes and lakes of lavender fields. This is the region where those photos originate. The L'Occitane products that supply their 2000 shops around the world - their entire lavender harvest is from this region. In fact, they purchase just about half the annual crop harvest of lavender produced in Haute-Provence, the region where the company was founded and is still, today, headquartered. In essence, the locals didn't nickname the little blue flower "blue gold" for nothin'.

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