acanthus

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acanthus (əkăn´thəs), common name for a member of the Acanthaceae, a family of chiefly perennial herbs and shrubs, mostly native to the tropics. A few members of the family, many of which have decorative spiny leaves, are cultivated as ornamentals—especially the Mediterranean acanthus, or bear's-breech (genus Acanthus), whose ornate leaves were the source of a stylized motif used in Greek and Roman art (see Corinthian order). In Christian art the acanthus symbolizes heaven. Some species of the genus Ruellia are native to and cultivated as ornamentals in North America, chiefly in the South. Acanthus is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Scrophulariacles.

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Acanthus (family Acanthaceae) A genus of shrubs and perennial herbs, most of which are xeromorphic and have spiny leaves. Some species are cultivated as ornamentals. The upper lip of the corolla is lacking. The pattern for the decoration on Corinthian column capitals is supposedly based on the leaves of A. spinosus. There are 30 known species, found in southern Europe (A. mollis is bear's breech), Asia, and Africa (A. illicifolius grows in mangrove swamps).

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acanthus. Conventionalized representation of the leaf of the Acanthus spinosus plant, found on the lower parts of Corinthian and Composite capitals, and also used for enrichment of various elements in Classical architecture. Vitruvius tells of how a basket, placed over the grave of a maiden of Corinth, and protected by a tile, became festooned in acanthus-stalks and leaves, and was copied by Callimachus in stylized form, thus creating the Corinthian capital.

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a·can·thus / əˈkan[unvoicedth]əs/ • n. 1. a herbaceous plant or shrub (genus Acanthus, family Acanthaceae) with bold flower spikes and spiny leaves, native to Mediterranean regions. 2. Archit. a representation of an acanthus leaf, used as a decoration for Corinthian column capitals.

acanthus

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acanthus Perennial plant with thistle-like leaves, found in Africa, the Mediterranean region, India and Malaysia. It has lobed, often spiny leaves and white or coloured flower spikes. The pattern of the leaves in a stylized form is a common classical architectural motif. Family Acanthaceae.

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acanthus a conventionalized representation of the leaf of this plant is used especially as a decoration for Corinthian column capitals. The term in this sense dates from the mid 18th century; the name of the plant comes via Latin from Greek akanthos, from akantha ‘thorn’, from akē ‘sharp point’.

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acanthus XVII. — L. — Gr. ákanthos, f. ákantha thorn.