The Mediterranean coast was originally covered by vast expanses of forest. After these had been felled, maquis of between 1.5 and 10 m in height took over and today forms the secondary vegetation that covers entire regions like a blanket.
Maquis now extends widely from the shores of the sea inland into valleys and hilly country up to altitudes of about 800 metres.
This plant society of dense, thorny, hard-leafed shrubs and trees exudes a unique aroma that stems from the etheric oils that protect the plants from excessive water loss, and spicy resins. The trees and shrubs grow so dense in places that they have to struggle for space and light.
Large parts of maquis are inaccessible to us humans, so that tortoises can still live an undisturbed life there.
Maquis is typically composed of holm oak (Quercus ilex) and cork oak (Quercus suber), intermixed with dwarfish pine trees (Pinus ssp.), turpentine tree (Pistacia terebinthus), box (Buxus sempervirens), wild olive (Olea europaea), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), and fig (Ficus carica) that often form thickets together with shrubby, largely evergreen bushes with tough leathery leaves such as tree heath (Erica arborea), mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus), narrow-leaved mock privet (Phillyrea angustifolia), myrtle (Myrtus communis), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), and various, usually thorny shrubs like kermes oak (Quercus coccifera), spiny broom (Calicotome villosa), thorny burnet (Sarcopoterium spinosum), or sea fennel (Echinophora spinosa), wild rose (Rosa ssp.), and blackberry (Rubus ssp.).
The leaves of these partly evergreen, aridity-resistant shrubs and low trees (xerophytes) are small and narrow, often covered with a waxy coating or overgrown with fine hairs, or modified into needles or thorns. Providing a minimum of surface and being covered with a waxy coating or hairs helps the plants to not lose too much water through evaporation.