Despite its name this isn’t really a woodland plant at all, but prefers open grassland and grows on forest margins or in clearings. In Scotland it grows in dry heathland and rocky places on lime-free soils throughout the nation. But it is seldom seen in the North East and not seen at all in Shetland.
Its stems grow upright and unbranched, and are woody at the base. Short hairs appear all over the stems and leaves. The leaves grow up the stem in opposite pairs, to a length of 3 to 7cm. These are oval, rough to the touch like a sage leaf, and either blunt at the tips or sharp. The edges have rounded teeth and the base of the leaf is obcordate, or upside-down heart-shaped. Leaf stalks are shorter than the leaf blade.
The flowers grow in spikes at the stem tips, and are profuse. In between the flowers small bracts can be found also growing in opposite pairs, and oval like the leaves. The flowers grow on short stalks which arise from the angles of these bracts. They are 8 to 9mm long and have 5 greenish-cream petals with their bases joined into a narrow tube. The lower petal lobe is much longer than the others, and the upper 2 petals are very short. 4 thick purple stamens project and curl, and a forked white style protrudes even further from the flower.