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Acanthus (Acanthus mollis)

Datasheet

Description
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Common names 

Bear's breech, bear's breeches, artist's acanthus, oyster plant, sea dock [English]; acanthe à feuille molles, acanthe molle, acanthe à feuilles larges [French]; acanto [Spanish]; acanto-grego, acanto-manso, erva-gigante [Portuguese]; Wahrer Bärenklau [German]; acanto, acanto molle [Italian]; الأقنثا الناعمة [Arabic]

Related feed(s) 
Description 

Acanthus mollis L. is a perennial herb that can grow to a height of 0.9-1 m. It is a popular ornamental plant well-known for its large (30-60 cm), dark glossy leaves that served as a model for foliage decoration in Ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine architecture (Robertson, 1969). The leaves are opposite, oblong with deeply pinnate toothed lobes, and the lower leaves are borne on large (up to 50 cm long) petioles. The stems are coarse, simple, cylindrical, upright and erect. The spike-like terminal inflorescence, which can be as high as the plant, bears large (3.5-5 cm long) flowers with whitish, purple-veined corollas. The fruits are dehiscent, glabrous capsules that contain 2-4 large ovoid seeds (Ecocrop, 2014; Ecoport, 2014; GISD, 2014; PFAF, 2014; Coste, 1899-1906).

Acanthus mollis is mainly cultivated in gardens. However, it contains mucilage and tannins and is used in ethnomedicine (PFAF, 2014). It is generally not browsed by game and is rarely used as fodder (PFAF, 2014; Göhl, 1982), although, in Sicily, it has been fed to goats and cows with good results. In Italy, a series of experiments (1951-1961) reported extremely high nutritive values much superior to those of alfalfa and red clover. Its cultivation as a fodder species was proposed to increase the number of available forage varieties on Mediterranean farms (Tiberio, 1961).

Distribution 

Acanthus mollis is native to the Mediterranean Basin and has been introduced as an ornamental plant worldwide. It is usually cultivated in gardens but it is spontaneous in disturbed areas, urban areas, waste lands, riparian zones, roadsides, railway banks and in natural forests. Acanthus mollis can grow in a wide range of soils, although it prefers light to medium soil types and thrives on deep loamy soil. Heavy clay soils are also possible, provided they are well drained. It does well under dry conditions and has low tolerance to wet soils. It grows well under full light or partial shade. The older plants are winter hardy, surviving at -15°C, but younger plants require shelter from frost. The plant has a vegetative rest period in summer and grows quickly in spring and autumn (GISD, 2014).

Forage management 

Acanthus mollis is relatively easy to grow. When sown in rows at a spacing of 35 to 50 cm with 40-50 kg seeds per ha, it produced dense stands with 10 to 16 plants per m2, which were reported to produce 18 t protein/ha (Tiberio, 1961).

Environmental impact 

Invasiveness

Acanthus mollis is difficult to eradicate because its dry capsules explode, scattering seeds over a wide area, and its roots rapidly regrow (Ecocrop, 2014). Dense infestations occur under forest canopies where they suppress growth and hamper regeneration of native species. It may become an agricultural pest in several states of Australia (GISD, 2014).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Acanthus mollis foliage was found to be extremely rich in nutrients, particularly at the pre-flowering stage and in autumn regrowth. Protein content (17-25% DM) was higher than that of alfalfa and red clover at the same stage and the fibre content was lower (11% DM). Its carotene content in the pre-flowering stage and in the autumn regrowth was also high (320-350 mg/kg DM) (Maymone et al., 1961; Tiberio, 1961; Alibes et al., 1990).

Ruminants 

The only known source of information about the use of Acanthus mollis in ruminants is a series of experiments run between 1951 and 1961 at the Institute Sperimentale Zootecnico (Rome), reported in Tiberio, 1961 and Maymone et al., 1961. These authors noted that Acanthus mollis has long been used in Sicily for feeding goats and cattle. In the 1951-1961 experiments, the digestibility of fresh Acanthus mollis forage was found to be extremely high, particularly in the pre-flowering stage and in the autumn regrowth, with OM and N digestibility values of 81% and 85% respectively (Alibes et al., 1990Tiberio, 1961). These values were consistent between experiments. Digestibility was only slightly lower at full bloom or in the advanced flowering stage (Tiberio, 1961). However, despite these promising results, Acanthus mollis has not become a significant fodder species.

Rabbits 

No information found (2014).

Other species 

Garden snail (Helix aspersa)

In Chile, garden snails (Helix aspersa) reared in open-air artificial systems preferred Acanthus mollis, lettuce, artichoke and roses to beet, plantain and a cabbage-based diet (Rebolledo et al., 1992).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 13.9 3.6 10.2 17.4 3  
Crude protein % DM 21.3 4.1 17.2 25.3 3  
Crude fibre % DM 11.2 0.0 11.2 11.2 3  
Ether extract % DM 2.7   2.3 3.0 2  
Ash % DM 13.4 2.3 11.1 15.7 3  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 17.4         *
               
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 9.6 2.2 8.3 12.1 3  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 3.5 1.0 2.6 4.6 3  
               
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Arginine % protein 3.9       1  
Histidine % protein 1.9       1  
Isoleucine % protein 4.1       1  
Leucine % protein 6.9       1  
Lysine % protein 4.1       1  
Methionine % protein 1.3       1  
Phenylalanine % protein 10.0       1  
Threonine % protein 4.1       1  
Tryptophan % protein 0.9       1  
Valine % protein 5.8       1  
               
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 85.5 1.3 84.7 87.0 3  
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 81.6         *
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 14.2         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 11.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 82.7 3.5 80.5 86.8 3  

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.

References

Alibes et al., 1990; Maymone et al., 1961

Last updated on 14/08/2014 12:26:56

References
Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Hassoun P., Lebas F., 2015. Acanthus (Acanthus mollis). Feedipedia, a programme by INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. http://www.feedipedia.org/node/195 Last updated on July 20, 2015, 15:24

English correction by Tim Smith (Animal Science consultant) and Hélène Thiollet (AFZ)