Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Garden designers refer to some plants as being “architectural plants.” This term suggests that a plant with dramatic foliage, or a distinctive growth habit, can serve as a central point of interest in a planting scheme. This is certainly true of Acanthus hungaricus but it can also lay claim to a more literal definition. Ancient Greeks and Romans frequently depicted acanthus foliage in decorative stone carving, most notably on the capitols of their columns in the Corinthian architectural order.
It is a handsome plant with large, thistle-like foliage and tall spikes of geometrically arranged white flowers with mauve bracts.
A large clump of it can be seen blooming this week in the Wild Garden and is well worth a visit.
Several species of acanthus exist, most of them native to regions of the Mediterranean and Southwest Asia. Acanthus hungaricus is native to Hungary and to parts of the Balkan Peninsula.
Bear’s breeches is an old common name, the origin of which is not entirely clear.