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Rare flower spotted in Thorpe St Andrew - but cut down by a strimmer days later

PUBLISHED: 12:34 06 July 2017 | UPDATED: 19:50 06 July 2017

The purple vipers bugloss seen growing along the road in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Chris Durdin

The purple vipers bugloss seen growing along the road in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Chris Durdin

Archant

It was a special moment for Norwich nature lover Chris Durdin when he stumbled upon an extremely rare flower in a grass verge.

But it was also a fleeting moment - for within a few days the purple vipers bugloss was gone, having probably been cut down in its prime with a strimmer.

The purple vipers bugloss seen growing along the road in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Chris Durdin The purple vipers bugloss seen growing along the road in Thorpe St Andrew. Picture: Chris Durdin

Mr Durdin of Honeyguide Wildlife Holidays spotted the flower (Latin name Echium plantagineum) growing alongside the Ring Road in Thorpe St Andrew.

He said: “I haven’t found out just yet for sure how rare it is to Norfolk, but I have been doing research and have not found any record of it in the county.

“It’s abundant in the Mediterranean and is also found in Australia and South Africa, but is not native to those countries. In South Africa it is believed to have arrived with imported hay that was brought in for livestock.”

Mr Durdin said he first came across the flower on June 25. “I was cycling past when I saw it and stopped for a closer look, then returned later to take photos. Unfortunately, days later when I drove past I noticed the area had been cut and I went back and could not find any remnants of the plant.”

Chris Durdin. Picture: Howard Bayliss Chris Durdin. Picture: Howard Bayliss

He said there were two possibilities how the plant could have ended up growing on the side of the road. “It could have been brought to the area on the wheel of a vehicle. The other possibility is that it was a garden escape. Someone has it growing in their garden and it has seeded itself.”

He said the plant should not be confused with vipers bugloss which is found in Norfolk, especially in the Brecks. “This was not the same, vipers bugloss is taller with flowers in a spike.”

Describing the find as not “biologically important”, Mr Durdin said it was more of a “curiosity”.

“I’m not sure what I could have done to protect it other than putting up a small board next to the plant saying please don’t destroy,” he added.

Purple vipers bugloss plants grow to 20-60cm and have rough, hairy leaves up to 14cm long. The flowers are purple, about 15-20mm, with the stamens protruding. It is poisonous to grazing livestock, especially animals with simple digestive systems, like horses. It is native to western and southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia.

“It is not native across most of Britain but is found growing in south-west England,” said Mr Durdin.

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