Yellow Archangel (Lamium argentatum), a European groundcover with strikingly variegated leaves, handsome yellow flowers and a habit for perpetual growth.
The plant was listed as an English garden plant in Loudon’s Hortus Britannicus, and is referred to in an 1883 review in Melbourne’s Argus as ‘the yellow archangel weeds’ of Sandringham (UK), but is otherwise absent in early Australian sources under any names we’ve identified.
It would be unusual if the Victorians had found themselves discouraged from importing this plant to Australia. But like a number of other Dandenongs weeds, this is a cottage garden selection that only really seemed to get going when better roads made hashtag-rangelife a reasonable option after the wars.
As one Tasmanian columnist observed belatedly in the 1990s, ‘steer clear… given a little shade it will carpet the whole garden, ramping over smothering more precious plants, and very different to eradicate once established.’
Another column was even more direct, ‘The best thing that can be said for it is that it stops just short of the sunlight.’
Unsurprisingly, this is a plant that can become invasive in adjacent natural areas. In both eastern and western North America, it has become broadly established in damp forest habitats. First recorded in Victoria in 1988 behind Mount Eliza, in the 1990s the species had been recognised expanding at various sites in the eastern ranges, and by 1997 it had been collected at Ferny Creek on the edge of the Dandenongs. That Ferny Creek infestation has endured, as seen in the photos here. The notes on the 1997 record report ‘Extensive patches covering tens of square metres extending into firebreak from neighbouring gardens.’
There are now many records from the Dandenongs and the other eastern ranges, as well as from NZ. Singular records also have the plant spreading from old gardens in NSW, QLD and ACT, with a handful of records from across Tasmania.
More than you probably want to read about scientific and common names: recognised internationally as Lamium galeobdolon ssp. argentatum, this hasn’t been adopted by the APC or the Victorian authority (VicFlora). In the past, the genera Lamiastrum and Galeobdolon were also used. Common names Aluminium Plant and Artillery Plant are shared with species of Pilea (unrelated ornamental nettles) and those names are used more conventionally to refer to those species. All this confusion makes it hard to know if we are missing an important historical episode in the discussion. ‘Yellow Archangel’ is used internationally, and offers a slightly more specific reference to the vaguely angelic shape of the flowers. ‘Golden/Yellow Deadnettle’ is also an option, although you need to be okay with deadnettles not being nettles.