Family: Acanthaceae
Common Name: Bear's breech, oyster plant

From southern Europe and North Africa, this intriguing perennial has handsome leaves, often up to 1 m (3 ft) long, and curious purplish and white flowers densely arranged on tall, erect spikes. The stunning leaves are found as a motif on capitals of Greek Corinthian columns.


A. mollis, from the Mediterranean, makes a beautiful feature plant. It is a robust, leafy clump up to 1 m (3 ft) wide and 1 m (3 ft) tall. The large, dark green leaves are deeply serrated and veined. The purple and white flowers appear in late summer.

A. spinosus, ranging from Italy to Turkey, can grow to 1.5 m (5 ft). The spiny-edged, dark green leaves art deeply incised almost to the midrib. Flowers are white with purple bracts, appearing from late spring to midsummer.


Plant in rich soil in a sunny or partly shaded position and water well to ensure rapid growth. Prune spent flowers and dead leaves. It is usually grown from seed or by division in spring. The seedlings should be potted when they are large enough to handle. Divide by lifting an established clump and
detaching the strong side shoots. Make sure the shoots have fibrous roots and a sound crown. Remove the leaves and water well until re-established.


Zone 6 and above.

Acanthopanax      Acer