Acanthus (plant)

Acanthus is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, native to tropical and warm temperate regions, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. This flowering plant is nectar producing and is susceptible to predation by butterflies, such as Anartia fatima, and other nectar feeding organisms. Common names include Acanthus and Bear's breeches. The generic name derives from the Greek term ἄκανθος (akanthos) for Acanthus mollis, a plant that was commonly imitated in Corinthian capitals.[2][3]

The genus comprises herbaceous perennial plants, rarely subshrubs, with spiny leaves and flower spikes bearing white or purplish flowers. Size varies from 0.4 to 2 m (1.3 to 6.6 ft) in height.

Acanthus montanus3
Acanthus montanus
Scientific classification


See text


Cheilopsis Moq.[1]

Selected species

  • Acanthus arboreus Forssk. (1775)
  • Acanthus austromontanus Vollesen (2007)
  • Acanthus balcanicus Heywood & I.Richardson (Syn. Acanthus hungaricus (Borbás) Baenitz, Acanthus longifolius Host) — native to the Balkans south of Dalmatia
  • Acanthus dioscoridis Willd.
  • Acanthus ebracteatus Vahl This species occurs in South Asia, including Brunei Darussalam, China, South Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. In Australasia it is found in northeast Australia, northwest Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
  • Acanthus eminens C.B.Clarke — native to tropical Africa
  • Acanthus greuterianus Snogerup, B.Snogerup & Strid (2006)[4][5] — This species was discovered in NW Greece.
  • Acanthus hirsutus Boiss. — native to Turkey, Syria
  • Acanthus ilicifolius L. — native to India and Sri Lanka
  • Acanthus kulalensis Vollesen, (2007)
  • Acanthus latisepalus C.B. Clarke (1899)
  • Acanthus leucostachyus Wall. ex Nees. (1832)
  • Acanthus longibracteatus Kurz (1870)
  • Acanthus mayaccanus Büttner (1890)
  • Acanthus mollis L. — native to Mediterranean Europe
  • Acanthus montanus T.Anders. — West and Central African species, from Ghana in the west to Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Acanthus pubescens Thomson ex Oliv.
  • Acanthus polystachyus Delile — native to Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania.
  • Acanthus spinosus L. — native to southern Europe
  • Acanthus syriacus Boiss.[6] (Syn. Acanthus hirsutus subsp. syriacus) — native to the Eastern Mediterranean region
  • Acanthus uleensis De Wild. — native to Central (primarily DR Congo and Republic of the Congo) and East Africa (primarily Tanzania)[7]

Cultivation and uses

An acanthus plant (A. mollis) flowering in the ruins of the Palatine Hill, Rome, May 2005

Acanthus leaves were the aesthetic basis for capitals in the Corinthian order of architecture; see acanthus (ornament). Several species, especially A. balcanicus, A. spinosus and A. mollis, are grown as ornamental plants.

Acanthus leaves also have many medicinal uses. Acanthus ilicifolius, whose chemical composition has been heavily researched, is widely used in ethnopharmaceutical applications, including in Indian and Chinese traditional medicine.[8] Various parts of Acanthus ilicifolius have been used to treat asthma, diabetes, leprosy, hepatitis, snake bites, and rheumatoid arthritis.[9] The leaves of Acanthus ebracteatus, noted for their antioxidant properties, are used for making Thai herbal tea in Thailand and Indonesia.[10]


  1. ^ "Acanthus". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  2. ^ ἄκανθος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project. Harper, Douglas. "acanthus". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names: A-C. CRC Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  4. ^ Snogerup, S.; Snogerup, B.; Strid, A. (2006). "Acanthus greuterianus (Acanthaceae), a New Species from NW Greece". Willdenowia. 36 (1): 323–7. doi:10.3372/wi.36.36127. JSTOR 3997705.
  5. ^ "Acanthus greuterianus Snogerup, B.Snogerup & Strid — The Plant List". Retrieved 2017-12-13.
  6. ^ "Acanthus syriacus Boiss". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  7. ^ "African Plant Database". Les conservatoire et jardin botaniques de la Ville de Genève (Conservatories and Botanic Gardens of the City of Geneva). Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  8. ^ Wostmann, R; Leibezeit, G (2008). "Chemical composition of the mangrove holly Acanthus ilicifolius (Acanthaceae)—review and additional data" (PDF). Senckenbergiana Maritima. 38: 31–37. doi:10.1007/BF03043866.
  9. ^ Bandaranayake, W. M. (1998). "Traditional and medicinal uses of mangroves" (PDF). Mangroves and Salt Marshes. 2 (3): 133–148. doi:10.1023/A:1009988607044.
  10. ^ Chan, E. W.; Eng, S. Y.; Tan, Y. P.; Wong, Z. C.; Lye, P. Y.; Tan, L. N. (2012). "Antioxidant and Sensory Properties of Thai Herbal Teas with Emphasis on Thunbergia laurifolia Lindl". Chiang Mai Journal of Science. 39 (4): 599–609.

External links

Media related to Acanthus at Wikimedia Commons
Data related to Acanthus at Wikispecies


Acantha (Ancient Greek: Ἀκάνθα, English translation: "thorny") is often claimed to be a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant.

Acanthus (ornament)

The acanthus (Ancient Greek: ἄκανθος) is one of the most common plant forms to make foliage ornament and decoration.

Acanthus balcanicus

Acanthus balcanicus, is an endemic herbaceous perennial plant in the genus Acanthus, native to the Balkan peninsula, up to Dalmatia. This plant is also cultivated in many European and American gardens.

It grows to 80 cm tall, with basal clusters of deeply lobed and cut leaves. Leaves are dark green and shiny. It flowers in mid summer from July to August. Flowers are on a very long flowering stem and consist of a lower lip and upper tooth-like lip.

Acanthus ebracteatus

Acanthus ebracteatus is a species of shrubby herb that grows in the undergrowth of mangroves of south-east Asia. Common names include sea holly and holly mangrove.

Acanthus hirsutus

Acanthus hirsutus is a plant species in the genus Acanthus.

A. hirsutus contains the glycosides hirsutusoide (2-(o-hydroxyphenyl)-2-hydroxyethenyl-O-beta-glucopyranoside), luteolin-7-O-beta-D-glucuronide, beta-sitosterol-3-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside and (2R)-2-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-2H-1,4-benzoxazin-3(4H)-one.

Acanthus ilicifolius

Acanthus ilicifolius, commonly known as holly-leaved acanthus, sea holly, and holy mangrove is a species of shrubs or herbs, of the plant family Acanthaceae, native to Australia, Australasia, and Southeast Asia. It is used as medicine in asthma and rheumatism.

Acanthus mollis

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

Acanthus montanus

Acanthus montanus, also known as Bear's Breech or Mountain Thistle, is a thinly branched perennial with basal clusters of oblong to lance-shaped glossy, dark green leaves reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) long. The leaves have silver marks and wavy margins. It reaches up to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and about 24 inches (61 cm) wide. Spikes of pale pink flowers appear summer to fall. It prefers shady situations and occasional deep watering, but tolerates sunny, dry situations too. Its aggressive roots make this plant perfect for slopes.

Acanthus spinosus

Acanthus spinosus, the spiny bear's breech, is a species of flowering plant in the family Acanthaceae, native to southern Europe, from Italy to western Turkey. It is an herbaceous perennial growing to 150 cm (59 in) tall by 60–90 cm (24–35 in) wide. The deeply cut leaves have spiny margins, and in early summer it bears erect, 1 m (3 ft) long racemes of white flowers with maroon bracts.It is thought that both A. spinosus and its close relative A. mollis were introduced to Britain as ornamental and herbal plants from the Mediterranean in Roman times. It has been intermittently cultivated ever since, and is now a regular feature of the herbaceous border.

Ancient Greek architecture

The architecture of ancient Greece is the architecture produced by the Greek-speaking people (Hellenic people) whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese, the Aegean Islands, and in colonies in Anatolia and Italy for a period from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest remaining architectural works dating from around 600 BC.Ancient Greek architecture is best known from its temples, many of which are found throughout the region, and the parthenon is a prime example of this, mostly as ruins but many substantially intact. The second important type of building that survives all over the Hellenic world is the open-air theatre, with the earliest dating from around 525-480 BC. Other architectural forms that are still in evidence are the processional gateway (propylon), the public square (agora) surrounded by storied colonnade (stoa), the town council building (bouleuterion), the public monument, the monumental tomb (mausoleum) and the stadium.

Ancient Greek architecture is distinguished by its highly formalised characteristics, both of structure and decoration. This is particularly so in the case of temples where each building appears to have been conceived as a sculptural entity within the landscape, most often raised on high ground so that the elegance of its proportions and the effects of light on its surfaces might be viewed from all angles. Nikolaus Pevsner refers to "the plastic shape of the [Greek] temple ... placed before us with a physical presence more intense, more alive than that of any later building".The formal vocabulary of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the division of architectural style into three defined orders: the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order, was to have profound effect on Western architecture of later periods. The architecture of ancient Rome grew out of that of Greece and maintained its influence in Italy unbroken until the present day. From the Renaissance, revivals of Classicism have kept alive not only the precise forms and ordered details of Greek architecture, but also its concept of architectural beauty based on balance and proportion. The successive styles of Neoclassical architecture and Greek Revival architecture followed and adapted Ancient Greek styles closely.

Biomimetic architecture

Biomimetic architecture is a contemporary philosophy of architecture that seeks solutions for sustainability in nature, not by replicating the natural forms, but by understanding the rules governing those forms. It is a multi-disciplinary approach to sustainable design that follows a set of principles rather than stylistic codes. It is part of a larger movement known as biomimicry, which is the examination of nature, its models, systems, and processes for the purpose of gaining inspiration in order to solve man-made problems.

Corinthian order

The Corinthian order is the last developed of the three principal classical orders of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The other two are the Doric order which was the earliest, followed by the Ionic order. When classical architecture was revived during the Renaissance, two more orders were added to the canon, the Tuscan order and the Composite order. The Corinthian, with its offshoot the Composite, is the most ornate of the orders. This architectural style is characterized by slender fluted columns and elaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. There are many variations.

The name Corinthian is derived from the ancient Greek city of Corinth, although the style had its own model in Roman practice, following precedents set by the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus (c. 2 AD). It was employed in southern Gaul at the Maison Carrée, Nîmes (illustration, below) and at the comparable podium temple at Vienne. Other prime examples noted by Mark Wilson Jones are the lower order of the Basilica Ulpia and the arch at Ancona (both of the reign of Trajan, 98–117 AD) the "column of Phocas" (re-erected in Late Antiquity but 2nd century in origin), and the "Temple of Bacchus" at Baalbek (c. 150 AD).


Stilfragen: Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik is a book on the history of ornament by the Austrian art historian Alois Riegl. It was published in Berlin in 1893. The English translation renders the title as Problems of style: foundations for a history of ornament, although this has been criticized by some. It has been called "the one great book ever written about the history of ornament."Riegl wrote the Stilfragen while employed as director of the textile department at what was then the Österreichisches Museum für Kunst und Industrie (today the Museum für angewandte Kunst) in Vienna. His primary intention was to argue that it was possible to write a continuous history of ornament. This position is argued in explicit opposition to that of the "technical-materialist" school, according to which "all art forms were always the direct products of materials and techniques" and that ornamental "motifs originated spontaneously throughout the world at a number of different locations." Riegl associates this view with the followers of Gottfried Semper, who had advanced a related argument in his Der Stil in den technischen Künsten; oder praktischer Ästhetik (Style in the technical arts; or practical aesthetics, 1878-79). However, Riegl consistently disassociates Semper's followers from Semper himself, writing that

The theory of the technical, materialist origin of the earliest ornaments is usually attributed to Gottfried Semper. This association is, however, no more justified than the one made between contemporary Darwinism and Darwin.

As the technical-materialist position had attained the status of dogma, Riegl stated that "the most pressing problem that confronts historians of the decorative arts today is to reintegrate the historical thread that has been served into a thousand pieces." Accordingly, he argued for a continuous development of ornament from ancient Egyptian through Greek and Roman and up to early Islamic and, eventually, Ottoman art.

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