Native Yellow Archangel without variegation

The British native Yellow Archangel, Lamium galeobdolon, does not have variegated leaves or dominant tendencies © Karen Netto (Andrews)

If you search online for Yellow Archangel, you are likely to find that your results are as dominated by the invasive, variegated subspecies Lamium galeobdolon ssp. argentatum. The native plant is an ancient woodland indicator. Although seemingly rarer than the invasive subspecies, I am able to find the native species in local woodlands, and occasionally in shady hedgerows. My observations have shown that it does not appear to possess the dominant and thuggish tendencies of the pervasive garden escape. By contrast, it is has a more shy, retiring habit blending into surrounding vegetation and can easily be missed. Isn’t it about time that we drew attention to the more angelic species?

Plant Family

Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Accepted Name: Lamium galeobdolon

Synonym: Lamiastrum galeobdolon (still in frequent use by botanists and wildflower guides)

Characteristics

  • Characteristic square stem of Lamiaceae
  • Characteristic pairs of opposite leaves of Lamiaceae
  • Whorls of flowers
Close-up of native Yellow Archangel, Lamium galeobdolon, pubescent (hairy) flowers and buds in spring sunshine © Karen Netto (Andrews)

Habitat

Woods, woodland edges and shady side of hedgerows. Ancient woodland indicator in the South West of England (if found in association with other ancient woodland species). I have found it intermingled with other species in hedgerows, hiding under and obscured by other taller species. Be wary as its presence can be hidden by Stinging Nettles, Urtica dioica.

Spikes of non-dominant, native Yellow Archangel, Lamium galeobdolon, appear amid other hedgerow vegetation. © Karen Netto (Andrews)

Habit

Most wildflower guides refer to Yellow Archangel, Lamium galeobdolon, as an erect species. I have found it growing laterally on a number of occasions, towards the light from a shady position.

Angel v. Devil

Easter is a good time to draw a comparison between the devilish invasive and the native Yellow Archangel. The Coronavirus shutdown means that many Britons are gardening to pass the time. Garden waste collections have been suspended locally. Recycling centres have closed to protect staff and help maintain social distancing. Please keep or compost garden waste in the interim. Please do not be tempted to fly tip garden waste into local woodlands. Invasive garden escapes can take over the woodland floor and outcompete our native species. They regenerate from the tiniest scrap. The variegated Yellow Archangel, Lamium galeobdolon ssp. argentatum, is often recommended to gardeners as a ground cover or woodland floor plant. It is a devil if released into the wild.

© Karen Netto (Andrews)

References and Further Reading

Harrap, Simon (2013): Harrap’s Wild Flowers. A Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain & Ireland. Bloomsbury. London

Plantlife (2020): Variegated Yellow Archangel. Last accessed 9 April 2020.

Plants for a Future (2010-2020): Lamium galeobdolon – (L) L. Last accessed 9 April 2020.

RHS (2020): Invasive non-native species. RHS Gardening. Last accessed 9 April 2020.

Stace, Clive (2010): New Flora of the British Isles. Third Edition. Cambridge University Press.

Streeter, David et al. (2016): Collins Wild Flower Guide. 2nd Edition. William Collins. London.

T. J. C. Transport (?): Best way to dispose of Garden Waste. Last accessed 9 April 2020.

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