Newfield Spring Wood: ancient woodland indicator species

On a recent visit to Newfield Spring Wood, a woodland close to my home in the southwest of Sheffield, I spotted a classic ancient woodland indicator species: yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon). This foliage of this plant superficially resembles the familiar stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), however it can be easily distinguished when in flower. Stinging nettle has lots of tiny ball-like flowers hanging down in chains, whereas yellow archangel has whorls of bright yellow hooded flowers. The adventurous could also tell them apart by testing the leaves – if it hurts it is a stinging nettle!

On this occasion I saw yellow archangel growing alongside white dead-nettle (Lamium album) – also a non-stinger, which has similar flowers (but in white) and broader leaves. Included below is a photo of them growing together to make identification easier.

yellow archangel
yellow archangel & white dead-nettle
white dead-nettle

Although yellow archangel should be a locally common species associated with the ancient woodlands and hedgerows of Sheffield, what is actually frequently found is Lamium galeobdolon ‘Variegatum’ which, as the name suggests, has a variegated leaf. This is a cultivated species that often escapes from gardens into woodlands.