|Scientific name:||Acanthus mollis L.|
|Scientific name:||Acanthus lusitanicus hort., Acanthus spinosisimus Host.|
|Common name:||Bear's Breeches|
|Hebrew name:||קוציץ רך|
|Arabic name:||الأقنثا الناعمة|
|Plant Family:||Acanthaceae, Acanthus family, קוציציים|
|Stems:||90-150 cm high; upright clump|
|Leaves:||Opposite, pinnate, lobed, dentate, hairy, shining leaves|
|Flowers:||Whitish, lilac or rose flowers with spiny green or purplish bracts|
|Fruits / pods:||Capsule, green|
|Flowering Period:||April, May, June|
Derivation of the botanical name:
Acanthus, acantha, ακανϑα, thorn, thistle. Acanthus (the Greek and Latin name for the plant is connected with "ake," a sharp point), a genus of plants belonging to the natural order Acanthaceae.
mollis, swaying, swinging, pliant, easily moved, soft, graceful.
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 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. 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.
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.
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 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 with acanthus leaves