Scientific: Acanthus mollis
Common: Bear's breeches, oyster plant
Family: Acanthaceae
Origin: Mediterranean region from Portugal and northwest Africa east to Croatia

Pronounciation: A-CAN-thus MOL-lis

Hardiness zones
12, 13 (with much protection)-24
USDA 7 (as an annual)-11

Landscape Use: Mesic settings with ample water, graceful foliar and floral accent, traditional shade gardens.

Form & Character: Evergreen herbaceous perennial, rich, beautiful, regal, old fashioned.

Growth Habit: Slowly clumping, ranging in height from 1 to 3 feet in height when not in flower with equal to greater spread.

Foliage/Texture: Large, deep green glaborous and somewhat with deep lobes and cuts, large to 2 feet long, leaves have pronounced coarse venation and elongated succulent petioles, basal; coarse texture.

Flowers & Fruits: One to several clusters of stalks to heights of 4 feet. Flowers born numerously on stalks. Individual flowers are complex structures up to 2 inches long and surrounded by three green or purplish bracts. The central bract is spiny and is larger than the other two. The flower calyx has two lips - the upper is purple on top, is rather long and forms a kind of "helmet" on top of the corolla. The corolla is reduced to a white lower lip, is tri-lobed with purple-pink venation. The four stamens are fused to the corolla and look like tiny brushes. In all, the flower structure is elegant.

Seasonal Color: Limited to flowering in mid spring (flowers in late spring to early summer along the California coast).

Temperature: Tolerant of all except the most intense desert heat of above 110oF.

Light: Shade

Soil: Prefers a rich, organic and well drained soil with limited alkalinity.

Watering: Regular and very frequent irrigations in desert areas.

Pruning: Remove spent flower stalks.

Propagation: Division and separation of large tuberous roots.

Disease and pests: None in Phoenix. In California, bear's breeches is like ice cream for snails.

Additional comments: Rarely seen in Phoenix because of its light sensitivity in desert locations. Otheriwse, this is a great coarse textured and large accent plant for large shaded mesic gardens. Bear's breeches is an old fashioned plant commonly found in traditional California gardens. Here is an image of Acanthus mollis growing near Kensington Palace in London, UK.