bear’s breeches

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean, the decorative leaf of Acanthus spinosus was one of the models for the decorative capitals at the top of ancient Greek and Roman Corinthian style columns.1

With large, deeply cut dark green leaves tipped with impressive looking spines, bear’s breeches form attractive mounds that are hard to miss by early summer. The sturdy spikes of large hooded flowers shoot up later in mid to late summer, making bear’s breeches a powerful statement from then until the garden is cut down in spring. There is no mistaking this prickly looking plant – planted by a busy corner in the dark plate, bear’s breeches helps remind garden visitors to stay on the path.

Besides being an architectural inspiration, the roots, leaves and dried flowers have been used in various preparations to treat burns and other skin irritations, as well as facilitate digestive health.2

Botanical Name Acanthus spinosus
Common Name bear’s breeches
Family Acanthaceae
USDA Zone 5 thru 9
Light Requirement Full Sun to Part Shade
Season(s) of interest summer, fall, winter
Height and Spread 3-4ft x 2-3ft (90-120cm x 60-90cm)
Flower Color White with Purple hooded bracts
Attracts Wildlife Attracts Pollinators, Rarely Browsed by Mammalian Herbivores
Additional Information Not Native to the US Midwest. Native to the Mediterranean.
Location in Lurie Garden Southeast Dark Plate