Several species of lavender (genus lavandula) grow naturally in Provence. Two of them are mainly cultivated and processed by lavender growers: fine lavender and lavandin.
Fine (or “true”) lavender grows naturally above 700 to 800 meters altitude. Robust, it resists the climatic constraints of the dry mountains of Provence. Lavender is grown largely for its essential oil. Its fresh and lively fragrance is highly appreciated by perfumers and cosmetics manufacturers. It is also produced for the confection of bouquets sold throughout the world. A small part is dedicated to the wavy flower whose chalices “water” the Provençal weddings.
The lavandin, more voluminous and more productive, is mainly cultivated in the plain or on the plateaus up to 600 meters of altitude. It represents more than 90% of the surface area and volume produced in the lavender family. It is mainly intended for functional perfumery (soaps, detergents).
One hectare of fine lavender yields 15 to 20 kg of essential oil. For lavandin, yields vary between 60 and 150 kg of essential oil per hectare, i.e. from 3 to 10 times more!
History, species, essential oil… Check out the Wikipedia page on lavender!