Yellow archangel

At first glance this wild plant can look like a yellow-flowered stinging nettle. In fact, it is in the unrelated mint or Lamiaceae family along with other ‘dead nettles’ such as the far more prolific white and red dead nettles.

The common stinging nettle although superficially similar to the dead nettles is not a mint family member and belongs to the Urticaceae family which mainly has tropical species as relatives. If you have ever noticed the dangly green catkins on stinging nettles in high summer you will see that these structures are nothing like the beautiful rings of flowers typically seen in mint-family species.

From an identification point of view there is nothing in else in the British country side that you may encounter at this time of year (April/May) and mistake for Yellow Archangel. If you see a nettle-like plant with vivid yellow flowers whorled around the stem at leaf junctions you can be sure you have the right plant.

The confusion comes as it does so often in plant identification when the species in question is NOT in flower. However this plant can easily be distinguished from the stinging nettle due to the above mentioned catkins and the fact that Yellow Archangel rarely exceeds 30CMS in height.

Many field guides list damp places, woodland margins and undisturbed sites as places to search for this flower and generally it becomes rarer the further North you venture. These habitat markers rang true for where I found this particular example and it stood out beautifully against the bluebells.

If you take a closer look at the structure of this wild flower you will see the famous traits of the mint family: square stem, opposite and alternate leaf pattern and a strong smell when crushed. This particular mint family member however has a not so pleasant fragrance – some sources claim that ‘galeobdolon’ in its latin name translates to ‘smelling like a weasel’.

The young plant does have edible uses despite its smell when crushed and you should always be 100% satisfied with your identification before incorporating this species into your wild food repertoire – ideally by having an expert guide you and introduce you to it in person… or you could just a keep a weasel handy in your foraging bag to compare it with.

To find out more about foraging for wild foods you can join me and the team on one of our foraging courses

Autumn Foraging Day Course

Spring Foraging Day Course

Wild Food Foraging and Preparation Weekend

Hedgerow Medicine and Medicinal Wild Plants Day Course

Adam Logan, Senior Instructor at Woodland Ways.

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