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Acanthus mollis

Family Name: Acanthaceae
Synonyms: Acanthus latifolius, Acanthus longifolius, Acanthus niger, Acanthus platyphyllus, Acanthus spinosissimus
Common Name: Bear's Breeches

The Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis) plant is a herbaceous perennial shrub with large attractive leaves and showy inflorescence. This plant tolerates a wide range of soil, but they grow best in fertile, well-drained soils under semi-shade condition. The flowers are 2-lipped with white to purple petals and can be propagated via rhizomes.

Full Sun: 6-8h Semi-Shade Moderate Water Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Foliage Woody Herbaceous


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub (Herbaceous)
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Open
Maximum Height 0.9 m to 1.5 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 0.6 m to 0.9 m


Native Distribution Western Asia to Southeastern Europe
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Temperate
Local Conservation Status Exotic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form A herbaceous perennial shrub growing up to 1.5 m tall and 0.9 m wide. It has large attractive leaves and showy inflorescence.
Foliage The glossy, dark green leaves are large up to 0.6 m long. They are deeply lobed and soft-spiny, growing near the base of the plant.
Flowers Flowers are borne in inflorescence called spikes. Each flower is 2-lipped and can be white or pink, covered by spiny purple bracts.
Cultivation This plant can tolerate a wide range of soil, but best in fertile, well-drained soils. It does not survive well under poorly drained soil. Provide semi-shade condition. The plant can tolerate full sun but provide slight shade to prevent scorching on leaves. This herb can be propagated via rhizome. Remove flowering stalks after the plant has finished blooming. It is best to plant in containers as the plant spreads easily via its rhizomes.
Etymology The genus Acanthus means thorny or spiny, in reference to the toothed leaf margins of some species. The species epithet mollis means soft hairs.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping The plant is suitable as specimen in container planting or garden borders.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage, Ornamental Flowers
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses Container Planting, Flowerbed / Border
Usage Hazard - Cons Aggressive Roots, Invasive / Potentially Invasive

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun, Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Potential Problems The plant can grow aggresively under optimum conditions if the roots are not taken out fully.
Propagation Method Root Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Glossy / Shiny
Prominent Young Flush Colour(s) Green
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Basal
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage
Foliar Margin Palmately Lobed

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) White, Pink
Flower Texture(s) Smooth
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Inflorescence Type Spike

Image Repository



Master ID 30589
Species ID 4898
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 15 October 2021.