Appreciation: Acanthus species

Discussion in 'How's It Growing?' started by wcutler, Aug 24, 2020.

  1. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I am posting this with some trepidation, as there has been talk about how hard these Acanthus, or bear's breeches, plants are to distinguish, but my interest was piqued by Douglas Justice's August 2020 In the Neighbourhood - UBC Botanical Garden blog, in which he included Acanthus hungaricus, saying that "[t]he most common of these is A. hungaricus (which is sometimes sold as A. balanicus, and often misidentified as A. spinosus). I of course had never heard the name "hungaricus" at all. I have posted this quote elsewhere, which Douglas sent me in an email:
    Acanthus hungaricus (syn. A. balanicus) has dissected leaves with deep, broad sinuses, the base of the sinus is a flange of leaf tissue that parallels the midrib. The spine tipped lobes are not particularly sharp.​
    Well, it turns out these are pretty common, in spite of my impression that I was seeing more of another species. Here are some photos.
    Acanthus hungaricus_GilfordPendrell_Cutler_20200819_164845.jpg Acanthus hungaricus_GilfordPendrell_Cutler_20200819_164758.jpg Acanthus hungaricus_GilfordPendrell_Cutler_20200819_164758c.jpg Acanthus hungaricus_GilfordPendrell_Cutler_20200819_164809.jpg
    Acanthus-hungaricus_950Bidwell_Cutler_20200812_155319.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_950Bidwell_Cutler_20200812_155327.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_950Bidwell_Cutler_20200812_155338.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_950Bidwell_Cutler_20200812_155339.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_950Bidwell_Cutler_20200812_155350.jpg

    Looking very similar to me, but feeling very different is Acanthus spinosus, which Douglas described:
    In A. spinosus, the lobe tips are sharp and numerous and the sinus is narrower and does not terminate in a flange along the midrib.​
    Here is a boulevard planting that called out to me as I was driving by yesterday. These leaves have a much higher owie factor. I'm not sure about the other characteristics, but there are more places where there isn't a midrib flange.
    Acanthus-spinosus_13thHemlock_Cutler_20200823_163628.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_13thHemlock_Cutler_20200823_163345.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_13thHemlock_Cutler_20200823_163647.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_13thHemlock_Cutler_20200823_163804.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_13thHemlock_Cutler_20200823_163857.jpg

    At the other end of the owie spectrum is Acanthus mollis - "mollis" means soft, referring to the leaves. These still have spiky flowers, but the leaves do not have spiny edges and the sinuses are much more shallow, leaving a large central flange. Some of these seem to have more spines on the flowers than others.
    Acanthus-mollis_2015BeachAve_Cutler_20200817_204013.jpg Acanthus-mollis_2015BeachAve_Cutler_20200817_204021.jpg Acanthus-mollis_2015BeachAve_Cutler_20200817_204030.jpg Acanthus-mollis_2015BeachAve_Cutler_20200817_204051.jpg

    A few years ago I photographed this Acanthus mollis Latifolius Group plant at UBCBG. I really don't know what to learn from this. I would for sure have assumed it was A. hungaricus. IF I had known that name yet.
    Acanthus-mollisLatifoliusGroup_UBCBG_Cutler_20160720_130532.jpg Acanthus-mollisLatifoliusGroup_UBCBG_Cutler_20160720_130532c.jpg
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Penultimate photo shows leaf of what I would call Latifolius rather than the last. With this glossy, rubbery shallowly lobed type long being the "mollis" of general commerce in this region.

    Haven't read anything to that effect that I recall but maybe some cultivated Acanthus plants encountered that don't quite seem to fit any one bill are hybrids.
     
  3. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    You mean penultimate group of photos, that I called simply A. mollis? So wider leaves for "Latifolius"; that makes sense, though it's not what is shown in the UBCBG photos, as you say. If you're talking about both photos in my last posting, they are the same photo, one cropped. If the narrow-leafed one is what is generally sold as A. mollis, I can go back to joining the folks who are confused. Leaves are just softer, without pointed tips? Really, I'm not understanding"rubbery shallowly lobed" from the UBCBG photos.

    Am I misunderstanding what you've said?

    Douglas Justice did mention that A. spinosus and A. hungaricus "apparently hybridize".
     
  4. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Here are a few more examples I found today at Barclay Heritage Square. In the front, at Roedde House, is Acanthus mollis.
    Acanthus-mollis_RoeddeHouse_Cutler_20200825_142657.jpg Acanthus-mollis_RoeddeHouse_Cutler_20200825_142734.jpg Acanthus-mollis_RoeddeHouse_Cutler_20200825_142800.jpg Acanthus-mollis_RoeddeHouse-BarclayBroughton_Cutler_20200825_142141.jpg Acanthus-mollis_RoeddeHouse-BarclayBroughton_Cutler_20200825_142213.jpg

    On the other side of the park is Acanthus hungaricus. I gave both of these an owie rating of zero on the leaves. The flowers on both were pretty spiky.
    Acanthus-hungaricus_BarclaySquarePark-Haro_HaroBroughton_Cutler_20200825_143431.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_BarclaySquarePark-Haro_HaroBroughton_Cutler_20200825_143654.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_BarclaySquarePark-Haro_HaroBroughton_Cutler_20200825_143504.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_BarclaySquarePark-Haro_HaroBroughton_Cutler_20200825_143457.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_BarclaySquarePark-Haro_HaroBroughton_Cutler_20200825_143551.jpg
     
  5. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I see in reading that Acanthus mollis var. latifolius is the normal one, which I think is what @Ron B was saying, not an unusual variation. The "var. latifolius" are supposed to have large shiny leaves. Now I am seeing this described as Acanthus mollis Latifolius Group.
    According to the page at Pacific Horticulture Society | Wildly Successful: Acanthus mollis, Acanthus leaves were the model for the design at the top of Corinthian columns.
    These are in Morton Park, across from English Bay. I am getting the idea that this species has the tallest flower stalks.
    Acanthus-mollis-LatifoliusGroup_MortonPark_Cutler_20200828_143737.jpg Acanthus-mollis-LatifoliusGroup_MortonPark_Cutler_20200828_143811.jpg

    Douglas Justice described Acanthus hungaricus leaves as looking like "a jumbled mass of foliage", but I found this group in the Stanley Park Rose Garden to be quite tidy-looking. I was also surprised how small the flower stalks were.
    Acanthus-hungaricus_StanleyPark-RoseGarden_Cutler_20200828_155040.jpg Acanthus-hungaricus_StanleyPark-RoseGarden_Cutler_20200828_155124.jpg
     
  6. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I came across another location of Acanthus spinosus - in Morton Park, where where there are also the other two species mentioned here. I was not able to touch the leaves in the third photo, and there are also A. hungaricus in the same bed, so that's a little iffy, but I think it belongs to this grouping. The owie factor on the leaf margins was high.
    Acanthus-spinosus_MortonPark_Cutler_20200918_140802.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_MortonPark_Cutler_20200918_140822.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_MortonPark_Cutler_20200918_140906.jpg Acanthus-spinosus_MortonPark_Cutler_20200918_141143.jpg
     
  7. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    The Acanthus mollis Latifolius Group plantings at Morton Park and nearby on Beach Avenue still look fabulous. We have had no snow or even freezing weather so far.
    Acanthus mollis Latifolius Group_MortonPark_Cutler_20210116_143703.jpg Acanthus mollis Latifolius Group_2015BeachAve_Cutler_20210116_144442.jpg
     
  8. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I'm just trying to stay in practice here. I had named these Acanthus hungaricus, but I think that's not right, have renamed them A. mollis. They're planted at the West End fire station.
    Acanthus-mollis_NicolaNelson_Cutler_20210329_150049.jpg Acanthus-mollis_NicolaNelson_Cutler_20210329_150116.jpg Acanthus-mollis_NicolaNelson_Cutler_20210329_150129.jpg Acanthus-mollis_NicolaNelson_Cutler_20210329_150250.jpg Acanthus-mollis_NicolaNelson_Cutler_20210329_150314.jpg
     

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