We talked a lot about acanthus in class today - or, to be more precise, acanthus mollis - soft spike. The class - Victorian Visual Culture - was about ornamentation: Owen Jones, some Ruskin, lots of Morris, Loos, and then lots of more recent reading. We had some great excursions into Victorian wallpaper, and whether or not it's possible to take an ornamental photograph (as opposed to a photograph of ornamentation). I was particularly struck by Owen Jones complaining in The Grammar of Ornament (1856) about the acanthus - in his chapter on Roman ornament; in his final chapter on plants and flowers and ornamentation. "The fatal facilities which the Roman system of decoration gives for manufacturing ornament, by applying acanthus leaves to any form and in any direction, is the chief cause of the invasion of this ornament into most modern works. It requires so little thought, and is so completely a manufacture ..." and clearly, he thinks that it's fatally spread into modern design.
So, yes, what do I see on my way to a meeting this afternoon? A whole bed of the stuff.