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Acanthus mollis L.

Brief Summary

    Acanthus mollis: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    Acanthus mollis, commonly known as bear's breeches, sea dock, bearsfoot[citation needed] or oyster plant,[citation needed] is a herbaceous perennial plant with an underground rhizome in the genus Acanthus. It is regarded as an invasive species in some jurisdictions.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    Bear's breeches (Acanthus mollis) is a very ornamental herbaceous perennial with large shiny dark green leaves. The plant grows in a clump about 5' (1.5 m) tall, with slightly less spread. The leaves can be up to 3 ft (1 m) long, with deep cuts, although there's quite a bit of variation among individual leaves. Each lobe is tipped with a soft (not sharp) spine. In late summer, bear's breeches blooms with creamy white to slightly pink or purplish flowers on dramatically tall, erect stalks held way above the foliage. Acanthus mollis is native to the Mediterranean region of northern Africa and southwestern Europe.

Comprehensive Description

    Acanthus mollis
    provided by wikipedia
    This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (October 2013) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

    Acanthus mollis, commonly known as bear's breeches,[2] sea dock,[2] bearsfoot[citation needed] or oyster plant,[citation needed] is a herbaceous perennial plant with an underground rhizome in the genus Acanthus. It is regarded as an invasive species in some jurisdictions.[3]


    The name of the genus derives from the Greek name of the plant ἄκανθος ákanthos; it was imitated in Corinthian capitals. This ἄκανθος ákanthos is related to ἄκανθα ákantha meaning "thorn" referring to the thorn-bearing sepals, or any thorny or prickly plant in Greek.[4][5][6][7][8] The Latin name of the species, mollis meaning "soft, smooth", refers to the texture of the leaves.[9]


    Close-up on a flower of Acanthus mollis
    A dismembered flower of Acanthus mollis
    Leaf of Acanthus mollis
    Corinthian column capital in the Mosque of Uqba in Kairouan, Tunisia

    Acanthus mollis reaches on average 30–80 cm (12–31 in) of height, with a maximum of 180 cm (71 in), inflorescence included. It has basal clusters of deeply lobed and cut, shiny dark green leaves, soft to the touch, up to 40 cm (16 in) long and 25 cm (9.8 in) broad, with a long petiole. The inflorescence is a cylindrical spike 30–40 cm (12–16 in) long and can produce up to 120 flowers. The flowers are tubular, whitish, and lilac or rose in colour. Each flower is up to 5 cm (2.0 in) long and it is surrounded by three green or purplish bracts. The central bract is spiny and larger than the other two. The calyx has two lips: the upper is purple on top, rather long and forms a kind of "helmet" on top of the corolla. The corolla is reduced to a white lower lip, trilobed, with purple-pink venation. The four stamens are fused to the corolla and look like tiny brushes. This species flowers in late spring or early summer, from May through August.


    Acanthus mollis is entomophilous and it is pollinated only by bees or bumble bees large enough to force their way between the upper sepal and the lower, so that they can reach the nectar at the bottom of the tube. The fruit is an ovoid capsule containing two to four large black seeds. The dispersal of seeds is by the wind (anemochory).

    These plants are usually propagated from tubers and tend to form large, localized clumps which can survive for several decades and look statuesque when well-grown, but its suitability as a garden plant is lessened on account of its invasive nature (new plants are produced readily both from seed and portions of root) and its susceptibility to powdery mildew and attacks from snails.


    This plant is native to the Mediterranean region from Portugal and northwest Africa east to Croatia and it is one of the earliest cultivated species.


    This garden plant is also quite common in the wild. It grows in dry areas, roadsides and wastelands, especially in rocky and bushy places. It is tolerant of drought and shade and generally does not exceed an altitude of 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level.


    The shape of the Acanthus leaf of this plant inspired the ancient Greek sculptor Callimachus (5th c. BCE) to model the capital (crown) of the Corinthian column. Since then, the Corinthian order column has been used extensively in Greco-Roman architecture.[10] Virgil describes Helen of Troy as wearing a dress embroidered with acanthus leaves.[11]


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      Plants of Acanthus mollis

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      Inflorescence of Acanthus mollis

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      Close-up on stamens of Acanthus mollis

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      Close-up on a flower of Acanthus mollis, lateral view

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      Fruits of Acanthus mollis

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      Flowering plant in the ruins of the Palatine Hill, Rome

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      Acanthus mollis inflorescence

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      Acanthus mollis, fruits and seeds on display at the Muséum de Toulouse



    1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved 18 December 2014..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
    2. ^ a b "Acanthus mollis". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 18 December 2014.
    3. ^ Weeds of Australia, Biosecurity Queensland edition: Bear's breeches, Acanthus mollis Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
    4. ^ ἄκανθος
    5. ^ ἄκανθα. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
    6. ^ "άκανθος".
    7. ^ άκανθος (in Greek). Centre for the Greek Language.
    8. ^ Harper, Douglas. "acanthus". Online Etymology Dictionary.
    9. ^ mollis. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary on Perseus Project.
    10. ^ and has been described by Vitruvius. On Architecture. Book IV.
    11. ^ [1]

    Other sources

    • "Factsheet - Acanthus mollis". keyserver.lucidcentral.org. The University of Queensland. 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
    • Pierre Delforge - Orchids of Europe, North Africa And the Middle East - 2006, Timber Press
    • Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia (3 voll.) - Edagricole – 1982, Vol. III
    • Tutin, T.G. et al. - Flora Europaea, second edition - 1993

General Ecology

    provided by EOL authors
    Bear's breeches performs best in loose, average to rich soil. It tolerates moderately dry conditions once established. Light: Bear's breeches can be grown in full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Bear's breeches does not tolerate constantly wet soil. Grow this perennial in well drained, but moist soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-10. Propagation: Propagate with 2-3 in (5-8 cm) root cuttings taken in spring. Fresh seed will germinate in a month or so.


    provided by EOL authors
    Acanthus mollis stands out in a bed of ferns or hostas, providing contrast with its darker color, greater size, and complex texture. It is a stately specimen in a courtyard garden. Some of the dignity that seems inherent in this plant might stem from its use in the ornamentation of classical Greek artwork and Corinthian columns! Probably because of its classical background, or perhaps because of the sculptural nature of the plant, it imposes an air of formality. With bold textured large leaves, and a tall, imposing flower spike, bear's breeches makes a fine specimen planting in a mixed border or in a stand alone grouping of 3 to 5 plants. Beware, though - It will continue to expand and invade its surrounding area, and every little piece of root that gets broken off is likely to start a new plant.