acanthus, 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.

Any of the more than 2,500 plant species that make up the family Acanthaceae, of the figwort order. Acanthus are found mostly in tropical and subtropical regions. Most are herbaceous plants or shrubs that grow in tropical rainforests; some are climbers (vines) or trees. Acanthus have simple leaves arranged in opposite pairs on the twigs and enlarged cells called cystoliths in streaks or protuberances in the vegetative parts. The bisexual flowers are bilaterally symmetrical and usually crowded together in clusters. Individual flowers are enclosed by leaflike bracts, which are often coloured and large. Acanthus are mainly of horticultural interest and include some ornamentals.

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Acanthus is a community in northeastern Ontario, located on Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park. Acanthus is in Southern Unorganized Nipissing, in Nipissing District.

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