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Acanthus mollis

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Acanthaceae (Bearsbreech)
Also in this family:
Semi-evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
180 centimetres tall
Gardens, hedgerows, meadows, parks, riversides, roadsides, rocky places, scrub, seaside, wasteland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The Bearsbreech produces striking and elegant flowers that exhibit a unique beauty. The blooms are characterized by tall spikes, each adorned with tubular white flowers that emerge from distinctive, spiky purple bracts. These floral spikes, rising above the large, glossy green leaves, create a visually arresting display. The flowers typically appear in the summer, adding a touch of grace and charm to the garden landscape. This ornamental plant is well-regarded for its aesthetic appeal and the architectural quality of its blooms.
The Bearsbreech does not produce conspicuous or notable fruits in the traditional sense. Instead, its primary method of reproduction is through seeds. The plant develops seed capsules that contain the seeds, but these capsules are not typically showy or ornamentally significant. The focus of aesthetic interest in Bearsbreech is more on its striking foliage and elegant floral spikes rather than its fruits. The plant is primarily cultivated for its visual appeal in gardens and landscapes, with the seeds playing a role in its natural reproduction.
The Bearsbreech is recognized for its large, glossy green leaves that contribute to its distinctive appearance. These leaves are deeply lobed and feature a lush, vibrant green hue. Each leaf has pronounced, spiky edges, adding to the overall textural interest of the plant. The foliage forms an attractive basal rosette, creating a bold and tropical-like presence in the garden. The leaves of Bearsbreech are a key ornamental feature, providing a visually appealing backdrop to the plant's tall flower spikes.
Bearsbreech is generally not known for having a strong or distinctive fragrance. While some plants are prized for their scents, Bearsbreech is primarily cultivated for its striking visual appeal, characterized by large, glossy green leaves and tall spikes of tubular white flowers with purple bracts. The plant's ornamental value lies more in its visual aesthetics than in any notable fragrance.
Other Names:
Artist's Acanthus, Bearsfoot, False Orchid, Grecian Pattern Plant, Oak Leaf Acanthus, Oyster Plant, Sea Dock, Sea Holly.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Acanthus mollis, also known as bear's breech or sea holly, is a species of flowering plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the plantain family and is known for its large, spiny leaves and showy, purple or white flowers. Acanthus mollis is a perennial plant that grows up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and has a tall, upright stem. The leaves are large and are deeply lobed, with a distinctive, spiny margin. The plant produces showy, purple or white flowers that are shaped like a trumpet and are arranged in spikes. Acanthus mollis is a popular garden plant and is known for its striking foliage and flowers. It is also used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments.


Bears breech, Acanthus mollis, is a beautiful and hardy perennial plant that is native to the Mediterranean region. With its large, striking leaves and spikes of white or pink flowers, it adds an element of sophistication to any garden.

One of the standout features of Bears breech is its leaves. They are large and glossy, with a deeply lobed shape that resembles the claws of a bear. These leaves are a rich green color and can grow up to two feet long, making them a real focal point in the garden.

The flowers of Bears breech are just as impressive as its leaves. They grow on spikes that can reach up to four feet tall, and they come in shades of white or pink. The flowers bloom in the summer and last for several weeks, adding a pop of color to the garden.

Another advantage of Bears breech is its hardiness. This plant can grow in a variety of soils and can tolerate some drought. It also does well in partial shade, making it a good choice for gardens that are partially shaded.

Despite its hardiness, Bears breech does require some maintenance to keep it looking its best. It is best to cut back the plant after it has finished blooming, as this will encourage it to produce more flowers the following year. Additionally, it is important to keep an eye out for pests, such as slugs, which can damage the leaves.

Aside from its ornamental value, Bears breech has a long history of medicinal uses. The plant has been used for centuries to treat various ailments, including skin conditions, digestive problems, and respiratory issues.

In traditional medicine, the leaves of Bears breech were often crushed and applied to wounds to promote healing. The plant's roots and leaves were also used to make tea, which was believed to have a soothing effect on the digestive system.

Today, Bears breech is still used for its medicinal properties in some cultures, although its effectiveness has not been scientifically proven. Despite this, many gardeners choose to grow the plant for its ornamental value, as well as its connection to traditional medicine.

Bears breech is also a popular choice for use in decorative arts and crafts. Its large, decorative leaves have been used to create beautiful patterns on textiles and ceramics, and its flowers have been used to make fragrant oils and perfumes.

In terms of cultivation, Bears breech is best planted in the spring or fall, when the soil is moist and warm. It should be planted in a sunny to partially shaded location, in well-drained soil. The plant does well in a variety of soil types, but it is important to avoid planting it in soil that is too heavy or waterlogged.

When planting Bears breech, it is important to provide enough space for the plant to grow to its full size, which can be up to four feet tall and wide. The plant can be spaced at least two feet apart to allow for adequate room to grow.

Bears breech is a relatively low-maintenance plant, but it does benefit from a good mulch layer to help retain moisture in the soil. The plant should also be watered regularly during the growing season, especially during periods of drought.

In terms of pests and diseases, Bears breech is generally hardy and resistant to most common garden problems. However, it is important to watch out for slugs and snails, which can damage the leaves, and powdery mildew, which can affect the plant's appearance.

Overall, Bears breech is a beautiful and versatile plant that is well worth considering for any garden. With its striking leaves and spikes of flowers, its history of medicinal and cultural significance, and its low maintenance requirements, it is a great choice for both experienced gardeners and those just starting out.

30 Facts About Bearsbreech

  1. Scientific Name: Acanthus mollis
  2. Common Name: Bearsbreech
  3. Family: Acanthaceae
  4. Origin: Native to the Mediterranean region
  5. Habitat: Thrives in well-drained soil and partial shade
  6. Appearance: Large, lobed, glossy green leaves with distinctive spiky flower spikes
  7. Height: Typically grows 2 to 3 feet tall, with flower spikes reaching higher.
  8. Flowering Season: Summer, producing tall spikes of white flowers with purple bracts.
  9. Cultural Significance: Has been used in art and architecture, notably in ancient Greek and Roman designs.
  10. Symbolism: Represents artistic beauty and has inspired various artistic motifs throughout history.
  11. Growth Form: Herbaceous perennial with a clumping growth habit.
  12. Hardiness Zone: USDA zones 7-11.
  13. Soil Preferences: Well-draining soil, rich in organic matter.
  14. Sun Requirements: Prefers partial shade but can tolerate full sun in cooler climates.
  15. Watering Needs: Moderate water requirements; avoid waterlogged soil.
  16. Propagation: Typically propagated through division of rhizomes.
  17. Drought Tolerance: Once established, it shows good drought tolerance.
  18. Wildlife Attraction: Attracts bees and butterflies.
  19. Low Maintenance: Generally low-maintenance once established.
  20. Culinary Uses: None; primarily grown for ornamental purposes.
  21. Foliage Texture: Large, deeply lobed leaves add a tropical feel to gardens.
  22. Disease Resistance: Resistant to most pests and diseases.
  23. Winter Care: Mulching around the base helps protect against harsh winter conditions.
  24. Fertilization: Fertilize in the spring with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer.
  25. Landscaping Use: Ideal for borders, woodland gardens, or as a focal point in the landscape.
  26. Cultural History: Acanthus leaves were a common motif in ancient Greek Corinthian columns.
  27. Medicinal Uses: Historically used in herbal medicine for various ailments.
  28. Aesthetic Value: Adds a touch of elegance and drama to garden landscapes.
  29. Fragrance: Bearsbreech typically has a mild, pleasant fragrance.
  30. Conservation Status: Not considered endangered or threatened; widely cultivated for ornamental purposes.


Bearsbreech filmed at the following locations:
  • Hidcote, Gloucestershire: 30th June 2023
  • Adlington, Lancashire: 11th July 2023
  • Duxbury, Lancashire: 2nd July 2023 and 20th July 2023
Footnote: The first 30 seconds of this video is Spiny Bearsbreech (Acanthus spinosus).

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Distribution Map

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