Acanthus syriacus, Syrian bear's breech,
Hebrew: קוציץ סורי (Bible: charûl,חרול), Arabic: كف الدب,شوك الجمل

Scientific name:  Acanthus syriacus Boiss.
English name:  Syrian bear's breech
Hebrew/שם עברי:   Kotsitz Suri, קוציץ סורי (Bible: charûl,חרול)
Arabic/الاسم العربي:   Kaff al-Deb, Shawk al-Jamal, كف الدب,شوك الجمل
Español:  Acanthus syriacus
中文-Chinese:  敘利亞熊的後膛
Family:  Acanthaceae, קוציציים

Flowers in Israel: Acanthus syriacus,Syrian bear's breech,Kotsitz Suri, חרול,charûl, קוציץ סורי, شوك آف الدب

Life form:  Hemicryptophyte, a perennial plant having its overwintering buds located at the soil surface
Spinescence:  Leaves, bracts
Leaves:  Opposite, rosette, dissected, pinnate, dentate or serrate, spinescent
Inflorescence:  cyme, raceme, Spike: Unbranched, elongated, indeterminate inflorescence with sessile flowers
Flowers:  Flower spikes bearing purplish flowers
Plant height:   40 - 180cm
Flowering Period:  March, April, May
Habitat:  Garrigue and batha (or phrygana), soft-leaved scrubland
Distribution:  Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands, Montane vegetation of Mt. Hermon
Chorotype:  Mediterranean
Summer shedding:  Perennating

פרחים וצמחי בר בארץ ישראל

Derivation of the botanical name:
Acanthus, acantha, ακανϑα, thorn, thistle; "ake," a sharp point, a genus of plants belonging to the natural order Acanthaceae.
syriacus, from Syria.
Bear's breech, from the size and appearance of the leaf which is very big, broad, and distinctly hairy.
The Hebrew word:קוציץ, kotzitz from Greek akantha, a thorn. It should be noted that the name refers to the thorns of the bracts, and not all species have thorny bracts. Most members of the family are not thorny.
  • The standard author abbreviation Boiss. is used to indicate Pierre Edmond Boissier (1810–1885), a Swiss botanist, explorer and mathematician.
See:Acanthus mollis

The Acanthus has a large leaf with a broken edge. It is a genus of about 30 species and two principal species are the Acanthus spinosus and Acanthus mollis, natives of the southern parts of Europe and the warmer parts of Asia and Africa. In Israel we have the the Syrian acanthus and has a rosette of large spiny lobed leaves. It can also be considered as one of the thistles in the Bible. The Acanthus spinosus has narrow, spiky, and pointed lobes of the Greek origin, while the Acanthus mollis is broad, blunt, and soft of the Roman.
The motif started to support plant-like volutes in architectural enrichments and to form the calyx from which spiral scrolls arise. It has been formalised, simplified, and modified in a variety. The deeply serrated and scalloped leaves and strong, graceful, curving stems inspired the formalised decorative motif. In classical Greek and Roman ornamentation, its appearance on Corinthian and Composite capitals was popular to make the motif synonymous with formal classic architecture. Acanthus spinosus was used on Greek, Hellenistic, and Byzantine capitals, and Acanthus mollis on Roman, Romanesque, and Early Gothic ones.

  • Pseudepigrapha, The Letter of Aristeas 70 (which describes the table for the Showbread in the Temple).
    And they made the foot appear like ivy growing out of the stone, interwoven with akanthus and surrounded with a vine which encircled it with clusters of grapes, which were worked in stones, up to the top of the foot.
  • Henry Baker Tristram (1822–1906), thinks that the nettles of Job were Acanthus spinosus, and G.E.Post (1838-1909) identifies the variety as Acanthus syriacus.
  • Tristram, The natural history of the Bible: "The charûl would appear to be different from the ordinary Nettle, since in Prov.xxxiv.31, it is mentioned alomg with it ...I am inclined to believe that it designates the Prickly Acanthus (Acanthus spinosus)".
  • Virgil, Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BCE – 19 BCE), a Latin poet, the author of the Eclogues, calls it mollis acanthus, Eclogue III.45: "A pair of cups, and round the handles wreathed Pliant acanthus." So does Pliny the Younger, Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (63-ca. 113), Roman writer and nephew of Pliny the Elder. He writes in "Letters on the Tuscan Villa" (1st century): "You descend, from the terrace, by an easy slope adorned with the figures of animals in box, facing each other, to a lawn overspread with the soft, I had almost said the liquid, Acanthus: this is surrounded by a walk enclosed with evergreens, shaped into a variety of forms".
  • Pliny the Elder, in his Nat. Hist. xxii. 22, p. 277, says that it is laevis, smooth; and that it is one of those plants that are cultivated in gardens.
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), a famous American writer, mentions Pliny's acanthus in the Assignation: "tears are gathering in her eyes - those eyes which, like Pliny's acanthus, are "soft and almost liquid."
  • The leaves of this plant are generally considered by historians to have been the design inspiration for the Corinthian column capitals of Greek architecture. The originator of the Corinthian Capitals is said to be Callimachus (Kallimachos), an architect and sculptor working in the second half of the 5th century BCE.
  • The attribution comes from Vitruvius's (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio born c. 80–70 BCE, died after c. 15 BCE) 'On Architecture' (book IV):
    "Now the first invention of that capital is related to have happened thus. A girl, a native of Corinth, just of marriageable age, was attacked by an illness and passed away. After her burial, her nurse, collecting a few little things which used to give the girl pleasure while she was alive, put them in a basket, carried it to the tomb, and laid it on top thereof, covering it with a roof-tile so that the things might last longer in the open air. This basket happened to be placed just above the root of an acanthus. The acanthus root, pressed down meanwhile though it was by the weight, when springtime came round put forth leaves and stalks in the middle, and the stalks, growing up along the sides of the basket, and pressed out by the corners of the tile through the compulsion of its weight, were forced to bend into volutes at the outer edges. Just then Callimachus, whom the Athenians nick-named 'catatechnos' for the refinement and delicacy of his artistic work, passed by this tomb and observed the basket with the tender young leaves growing round it. Delighted with the novel style and form, he built some columns after that pattern for the Corinthians, determined their symmetrical proportions, and established from that time forth the rules to be followed in finished works of the Corinthian order".

  • Corinthian capital of Vitruvius           Flowers in Israel
    Corinthian capital of Vitruvius with acanthus leaves

    In Mediterranean countries,the symbolism and meaning associated with the Acanthus is that of enduring life, and the plant is traditionally displayed at funerary celebrations. According to J.C.Cooper (1987), acanthus represents life, immortality, horns of the lunar crescent, veneration of the arts in Mediterranean countries. As acanthus appeared first in the Greek monumental art, often on burial urns in association with the death and morning, a definite relationship between the plant and the tomb is to be existed. It is a well-known story of Vitruvius’ acanthus related to the female and funerary, and phrases in Greek mythology indicate a sepulchral significance of the plant (Vitruvius's (Marcus Vitruvius Pollio born c. 80–70 BCE, died after c. 15 BCE) 'On Architecture' (book IV).) Acanthus was also used as an ornamental plant and was common in gardens during Roman times (Katharine T. von Stackelberg, 2009).

    Bible resources:
    • Job 30:7
      Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.
    • Zephaniah 2:9
      Surely Moab shall be as Sodom, and the children of Ammon as Gomorrah, even the breeding of nettles, and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation

    Israel Wildflowers      Acanthus syriacus, Syrian bear's breech,Kotsitz Suri,חרול,charûl, קוציץ סורי, شوك آف الدب

    Flowers in Israel: Acanthus syriacus,Syrian bear's breech,Kotsitz Suri, חרול,charûl, קוציץ סורי, شوك آف الدب