Acanthus hispanicus Loudon
Acanthus latifolius E.Goeze
Acanthus longifolius Poir.
Acanthus lusitanicus auct.
Acanthus niger Mill.
Acanthus platyphyllus Murb.
Acanthus spinosissimus Host
Common Name: Bear's Breeches
Basal clump of leaves of a plant growing in the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden - in El Chorro Regional Park, San Luis Obispo, California, USA
Photograph by: Daderot
Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication
Acanthus mollis is a herbaceous, clump-forming perennial plant growing up to 120cm tall. The plant forms a mound of leaves around 60cm tall from a large rootstock, with flowering stems up to 150cm tall arising in the early summer[
A very ornamental plant[
], it is much grown in gardens around the world.
Plants can become invasive in the garden[
], spreading by suckers, and they are difficult to eradicate due to their deep roots[
]. Since the explosive seedpods scatter the seed over a wide area, and the plant will regrow from any scrap of root, the plant can be hard to eradicate[
Southern Europe - Portugal and Spain to the Balkans; N. Africa - Algeria; Morocco; Tunisia, W. Asia - Syria.
Woodland scrub and stony hillsides[
|Cultivation Status||Ornamental, Wild
Acanthus mollis is a plant of the warm temperate to subtropical zone, where it can be found at elevations up to 2,000 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 15 - 30°c, but can tolerate 10 - 38°c[
]. When dormant, the plant can survive occasional temperatures down to about -15°c, if the soil is not too wet[
], though young plants may require protection in the winter[
] and even mature ones may need protection in cold winters[
]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 500 - 800mm, but tolerates 400 - 1,000mm[
Prefers a deep loamy soil in a sheltered position in full sun[
] but tolerates partial shade[
]. Grows well in heavy clay soils if they are well-drained but dislikes heavy damp soils[
] and will not overwinter in wet soils[
]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 7[
]. Established plants are fairly drought tolerant[
The leaves can wilt on hot summer days when plants are grown in full sun[
Does well in the lawn or wild garden[
]. Plants can be grown in quite coarse grass, which can be cut in the autumn[
Members of this genus are not usually browsed by deer[
The leaves and roots are astringent, detergent, emollient and vulnerary[
]. For internal use, the plant's emollient properties are useful in treating irritated mucous membranes within the digestive and urinary tracts[
The plant contains appreciable quantities of mucilage and tannin. Traditionally it was used as a treatment for dislocated joints and for burns. A paste made from the plant, when applied to a dislocated joint, tends to normalize the affected muscles and ligaments, simultaneously relaxing and tightening them to encourage the joint back into its proper place[
]. The crushed leaves have been used as a poultice to soothe burns and scalds[
The sub-species Acanthus mollis latifolia makes a good ground cover plant[
]. Relatively slow to cover the ground at first but it can eventually become invasive[
Seed - sow spring in a cold frame[
] or outside as soon as the seed is ripe[
]. It usually germinates in 3 - 4 weeks at 10°c[
]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on for two years before planting out in late spring or early summer[
Division in spring or autumn[
]. Very easy, they can be planted straight out into their permanent positions.
Root cuttings - winter in a coldframe[