Acanthus mollis
Why Acanthus mollis isn’t invasive in my garden.

June 10th, 2008
Week 23: 6/4 – 6/10

Dateline: 2008

Every year there come a time when I must make Sophie’s choice, deciding which plants will live and which will die. I yanked out the last of the borage and the cornflowers this week. In the case of the unkillable Acathus mollis, I’m not letting it die, just go dormant until fall. It’s so pitifully sunburned and bug-eaten that I consider this a mercy killing. It doesn’t like the heat or the searing sunlight. (For the last couple of weeks, it’s been getting about an hour of afternoon sun a day because my neighbor lost some big limbs in the last storm.) In good years, I don’t have to make hard choices until after the 4th of July. Apparently 2008 is not going to be one of the good years.

The weather looks bad everywhere: 100 degree heat on the east coast, floods in the midwest, and late snow in Washington state. This afternoon when it was 101 degrees (tied the 1923 record) rain began falling although the sun was shining. It was so hot that almost none of the rain hit the ground and what did evaporated immediately. Little steamy droplets rose so that it looked like it was raining up at the same time it was raining down. It was one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. Nothing soaked in and the rain didn’t cool us off; we just went from dry heat to humid heat.

The oleander still looks stupendous. The duranta and the crape myrtle looked good at the beginning of the week but are starting to fade by today. We harvested four ‘Juliet’ grape tomatoes and various jalapeno peppers.

First flower: pomegranite (6/8).
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photo: Acanthus Mollis
People are always writing to me and asking how to eradicate Acanthus mollis. Perhaps the best thing to do is move where the temperature tops 95.

June 6th, 2006
Hellishly Hot on 6/6/6

Last week May ended on a cool and rainy note. This week we’ve skipped straight to July. The sun is shining as soon as it’s risen; no cloud cover to burn off, nor any of the towering cumulus clouds that seem to me so much like summer in Austin. Just stark blue skies and the kind of sunshine that you can feel burning your flesh the second you’ve stepped into the sunlight. However, desert-like, this is a dry heat. As long as you stay in the shade, it’s more pleasant than a typical humid June day, even if the temperatures are reaching for record highs. Margaritas, anyone?

photo: Acanthus mollis
2003-05-09. Acanthus mollis. Austin, Texas. (zone 8)

May 9th, 2003
Acanthus mollis

Everyone who visits my garden in April or May is stopped dead in their tracks by Acanthus mollis. It’s so big. And it’s floral spike is bizarre and somewhat menacing.

Acanthus mollis is not really a good landscape plant in Austin, although it can be useful if you have a very shady site. It needs lots of water. As soon as the temperatures reach the 90s, it wilts and looks about as attractive as cooked spinach. Once the summer gets really hot, it fades away leaving a big hole in the border design. But when temperatures cool off in the fall, it’s back again. Fall and winter (if it’s not too cold) are it’s best seasons. In spring, the leaves are often ravaged by spring cankerworms and whatever beetles are about.

It’s one tough plant, though, and keeps coming back despite my neglect. People in more temperate climate consider it a pest.

photo: Acanthus mollis
2003-05-09. Acanthus mollis. Austin, Texas. (zone 8)