From point 0 at the sea to the summit of Monte Cinto at an altitude of 2,706 m, multiple levels of vegetation succeed each other, making Corsica an exception in the Mediterranean. The insularity, heterogeneity and diversity of habitats over short distances have led to a rich and contrasted Corsican flora.
The island's history has also played a role. The mass exportation of wood in the Antiquity period destroyed much of the forest, which today has been replaced by thickets, known as the maquis. Grapevines, olive trees and fig trees were reintroduced in Corsica by the Greeks, chestnut trees by the Genoese; clementines appeared during the XXth century.
22,500 plant species are present on the island, 140 of which are endemic to Corsica and 80 of which are endemic to Corsica and Sardinia. The island's isolation has created certain original characteristics in more common species present elsewhere.
The hot slopes forming the coastline are home to Mediterranean flora, combining exotic flora (pricklypear, tamarix, centuryplant, aloe, eucalyptus...) with garrigue and wild flora (phoenician juniper, wild olive tree, prickly juniper, pistacia, pine, thyme, rosemary, cistus, lavender, chestnut, clematis, white heath, myrtle, asphodel, fennel, everlasting...).
Specific plants can be found on the dune, having adapted to the sea spray, wind and strong heat: cotton weed, sea fennel, seaside daisy, searocket, golden-chain, sea holly, marine couch, bird'sfoot trefoil, sea medick, yellow hornpoppy, silver ragwort, tree mallow and seaside chamomile.
Not as tall as a forest and always green, the maquis covers 40% of Corsica. It grows up to an altitude of approximately 1000 m. Dense, fragrant, invasive, bushy and prickly, it colonises abandoned land. It is mainly comprised from the strawberry tree, heather, cistus, broom, everlasting, myrtle, thyme, rosemary, pistacia, asphodel, cyclamen, clematis, smilax aspera, honeysuckle, brambles and evergreen oak. Deep in the maquis, you can find cork oak trees or olive trees, the remains of former cultures.
The maquis is home to wild animals as well as mushrooms in autumn, with more than 500 different species to be discovered in the undergrowth: agaricus, boletus, chanterelle, lactarius, amanita, wood hedgehog, morel, sarcodon, parasol mushroom, pleurotus, russula, black chanterelle and the famous boletus aereus with its dense, flavoursome flesh.
Isolated or in the forest, many different species populate the mountain regions: endemic Corsican pine, evergreen oak, sessile and pubescent, yew, pinaster, beech, alnus alnobetula subsp. suaveolens (alder), fir, cedar, crocus, hellebore, digitalis, sweet woodruff...
At 2,000 m in altitude, the flora contracts to leave room for dwarf shrubbery (dwarf juniper, barberry) and natural grasslands with scattered sources known as "pozzine", where specific flora develops: matgrass, carex, rushes, buttercups, English cinquefoil, bellium nivale...
Many wild flowers can be observed when walking in Corsica. They border paths, flower dunes, brighten prairies or grow in the undergrowth away from the light. Some species of flower have developed in a manner specific to the island, thus creating endemic varieties that can't be found anywhere else: crocus (crocus corsicus, Corsican saffron), orchids (Conrad's orchid, serapias nurrica...), colchicum, violet, romulea, aconite, garlic, aquilegia, daisy, cyclamen, carnation, digitalis, everlasting, hypericum, forget-me-not, mint, nepeta, ranunculus, ... and pinguicula corsica, a small, endemic, carnivorous plant with beautiful purple flowers that can be found in the "pozzines".