All about Acanthus – History, Meaning, Facts, Care & More

There is a total of 30 species of Acanthus which is basically a flowering plant and it belongs to the family Acanthaceae. Acanthus is native to tropical and warm temperate regions and the highest variation or diversity is found in Asia and Mediterranean Basin.

Acanthus is basically a constant herb and it can grow up to the size of 0.9-1m. This is a very well known ornamental plant and it is famous for its huge leaves which are about 20-60cm and they are dark-glossy in color.

The leaves of this plant were used for decoration purposes in the old Greek and Roman architecture. There are so many different varieties of Acanthus plant which varies from each other in the thickness of the leaves as well in the number of spikes present on the leaves. Acanthus consists of tall spikes of the flower. This is commonly called a bear’s breaches.

The leaves may be notched, rough as well as twisted. They are not bright green but greenish in color and in Greek culture these leaves were used in pottery as well as in several other arts.


History of Acanthus

In the 5th Century BC this plant was used for the very first time by the Greeks as an ornamental plant. The plant was used on temple roofs, on wall friezes as well as on the Capital of Corinthian column.

It was used in the Olympian Zeus Temple in Athens. Later the design of this plant was also being used on carved furniture in the same era. The design of the leaves is so mesmerizing that they were used by the Greeks in jewelry as well as in buildings.

In ancient times, this plant was also very popular due to its medicinal characteristics.


Characteristics of Acanthus

Acanthus which is also known as bear’s breeches is basically a perennial plant that grows up to 09-1m in height. This plant is mostly grown for its fascinating and attractive flora as well as for its flower spikes.

This plant was firstly cultivated in the Mediterranean regions. These plants do bear flowers which are snapdragon like and creamy white in color.  The flowers of Acanthus are very unique; the petals which are on the outer side are white and they are loved by the Bees.

The growing season of this plant is mostly during summers from June to August. This plant is basically a hermaphrodite plant which means that it has both the male as well as female body parts.


Uses of Acanthus

As stated earlier it is commonly used as an ornamental plant due to the beautiful designs of its leaves as well as flowers. It has been used in the ancient architecture of Greek and Romans and in the designing of various temples. Besides that, the design of the leaves is also an inspiration behind different jewelry brands.

By reading the history of the plant it will be easy to say that the ancient Greeks used this plant for burns and wounds. The roots of the plant were used to make a paste and then it was used to heal dislocated joints.

Acanthus is also being used for its medicinal purposes. As a mixture Acanthus was thought to be diuretic. It was used to relieve spasm and also relax damaged nerves. The tannin that is found in the inside of Acanthus has high medicinal importance. It is externally used on wounds and burns to reduce the pain and internally it used to enhance the defense mechanism of the body.

Leaves have also been used for medicinal purposes. The leaves are boiled and paste is formed and then that is used to calm the belly. The mixture that is made from Acanthus is an excellent way to increase blood flow.

The plant is also in the treatment of irritated mucous membranes within the urinary as well as the digestive tract.


Meaning Associated with Acanthus

There are different colors of this plant which range from white to pink to purple but there is no evident history behind their meaning.

However, the plant itself is associated with different meanings. This plant is a sign of determination, grace as well as long life.

This is the plant that has the ability to tolerate any extreme conditions which usually symbolize that no matter what happens in life we have to face it and in the end, it will pass and happiness will come back.

The plant is associated with different symbols and signs from the ancient Greek civilization to date but as far as the color of the flower is concerned there is no evidence that there is some meaning associated with their color as well.


How to Care for Acanthus

Taking care of Acanthus is quite easy since it is not a demanding plant. The growth of this plant mainly depends on the fact that how extreme the cold weather can get in a given area.

One unique thing about this plant is that, it spreads with the help of underground runners and in an area where the climate is similar to Mediterranean climate, it is pretty easy to grow this plant without giving extra attention.  However, in areas that are comparatively cold, it must be taken care of properly.

There is no specific soil requirement for Acanthus it can grow fairly easily in any soil type as long as it is well-drained.

As far as light is concerned it prefers partial shade although it can deal quite easily with full sunlight it cannot bear flowers in extreme heat.

It requires watering frequently and if it dries out then it will droop right away. For the most part, this plant is not vulnerable to insect or pest attack but occasionally they will be attacked by snails that feed on its leaves as well as stems, so for that reason, one must be vigilant to the attack of insects and actions must be taken accordingly.