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Acanthus syriacus (Syrian acanthus)

Syrian acanthus is one of the most difficult species for seed collecting because its spines are so hard and sharp.
Fruits of Acanthus syriacus

Fruits of Acanthus syriacus (Photo: Simon Khairallar)

Species information

Common name: 

Syrian acanthus, Syrian bear's-breech

Conservation status: 

Not currently assessed by the IUCN.


Dry, open rocky slopes, usually on limestone; field margins, fallow and waste ground.

Key Uses: 


Known hazards: 

This species is very spiny and potentially harmful to domestic livestock.


Genus: Acanthus

About this species

The generic name ‘Acanthus’ is derived from the Greek ‘akantos’ = ‘spine’, because of the spiny nature of the plant. The attractive leaf shape of this genus (most probably originally based on the closely related Acanthus spinosus) ornaments the capitals (crowns) of Corinthian columns, as designed by the Greek sculpture Callimachus (Callimaque). Excellent examples of this botanically-inspired architecture can be seen at the ancient ruins of Jerash and Umm Qais in Jordan as well as at Kew Gardens.

Some scholars maintain that Acanthus syriacus is the plant referred to as the ‘nettle’ in the Bible.


main info

Courses at Kew

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

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