The unusual Norfolk flower which Norwich councillors will discuss today

Hoary Mullein. Photo: Byron Machin

Hoary Mullein. Photo: Byron Machin - Credit: Byron Machin

With its striking candelabras of – fittingly – yellow flowers and green branches, it is arguably one of Norfolk's most eye-catching blooms.

Hardy Road in Norwich. Picture: Bill Smith

Hardy Road in Norwich. Picture: Bill Smith - Credit: EDP pics © 2004

The hoary mullein wildflower – which is native to East Anglia and scarcely found outside its borders – is often spotted alongside the region's roads, coastal stretches and riverbanks.

Now, the plant – numbers of which have been hit by housing developments –- is a factor for councillors to weigh up when they decide on a vision to build a 130m-long riverside path along the Wensum on the edge of the city centre.

The Norwich City Council bid, which will today be decided by its planning committee, would see the path built adjacent to a section of Hardy Road in a drive to encourage the public to explore the river upstream of Trowse swing bridge.

But in planning papers posted online, the Broads Authority, which has been consulted on riverbank work which would be part of the scheme, warns of the presence of hoary mullein in the area.

The hoary mullein plant pictured by the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR). Picture: Norfolk Wi

The hoary mullein plant pictured by the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NDR). Picture: Norfolk Wildlife Trust/Roger Jones. - Credit: Archant

'This plant has significance in the Norwich area but is under pressure from continued development,' the papers say.

They add: 'Reseeding should be sown from a local brownfield source.'

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Plans for the cycle and pedestrian path, which would be three metres wide, were agreed in 2013, with £260,000 allocated at the time.

It was billed as a missing link in the riverside path, with hopes it would connect the city with Whitlingham Country Park.

A former Second World War barrage balloon site near the swing bridge would be demolished, with a 'heritage interpretation feature' added to preserve the area's history.

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What is hoary mullein?

The distinctive candelabras of the hoary mullein are scarcely found outside East Anglia and are most common in Norfolk.

First recorded in Britain in about 1670, the wildflower is most at home in disturbed land – on road verges, rough ground, railway banks, gravel pits and coastal shingle.

It is particularly prevalent in Snettisham, Heacham and the river gravels near Norwich, though areas of hoary mullein can be found around the county.

Seed often remains viable for years and new populations can appear after soil disturbance.

While losses have been reported in its core areas in East Anglia, thanks partly to development, other populations of the nationally rare species are safeguarded by admirers of the striking plant.

It is part of the verbascum family – also known as the velvet plant – of flowering plants, of which there are about 360 species.

Their height can range from 1.6ft to 9.8ft, depending on the species, with most forming a dense rosette of, typically, yellow leaves, though orange, purple, blue or white are also spotted.

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