Now Blooming: Bear’s Breeches

Acanthus mollis

This plant, now blooming in the northeast corner of the park amidst vetches and clovers, has both highbrow and lowbrow references.  The shape of its leaves is said to have inspired the sculptors of ancient Greece as template for the heads of Corinthian columns.  On the other hand, it’s regarded as an invasive weed with common names like Bear’s britches, bearsfoot, sea dock, or oyster plant.  This is the first time I’ve seen it, which doesn’t mean it’s new here, just that it’s kept itself tucked away rather well.  It’s capable of growing to almost six feet tall, but probably won’t here.  It makes life hard for pollinators, forcing them to wedge their whole body in between the lips of its flower to get to the nectar.  It spreads through rhizomes and/or by scattering its seeds to the wind. Given the floral environment at Cesar Chavez Park, a plant almost has to be invasive to survive here. 

Thanks to Joan at Berkeley Hort for the plant ID.


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