Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Search Challenge (4/20/16): An architectural plant?

I've been thinking about architecture lately, 

... and so it was with some bemusement that I saw some columns (specifically, the ones shown above on the left) that made me smile when I saw them.  Why?  Because this plant was growing at the base of the columns... 

I've shown all three variants on the column theme to give you a sense for what's going on.

This week's Challenge is simply this:  

1.  What about seeing this plant at the base of these columns made me smile?  What's funny / odd / surprising about this little scene?  (In other words, what's the connection between the plants and the columns?  No, it's not that the plants are planted at the foot of the columns.  It's much more obvious than that.)  

Although I've seen lots of classical Greek columns--in architectural follies, on banks, and on distinguished federal buildings--seeing this particular juxtaposition was the first time I actually smiled.  Can you figure out what I found amusing?  

(Hint: I know this sounds slightly odd--but give it a go.  If you just think about what connections might exist, you'll figure it out. Think about what kind of columns these are...)  

Search on! 

The same plant growing nearby.... 


  1. It's the plant that the leaves carved on the column (Corinthian) are meant to be? Acanthus.

    I Googled _column types_ to remind myself of the ionic/doric/corithian terminology then put those keywords in turn along with the word _plant_ and image search switched on looking for a clue.

    One of the images led to this site: which answered the question!

    Interesting result - I never new the 'frilly leaf pattern' on columns was meant to represent any particular plant!

  2. These look like real acanthus leaves, usually carved as an ornament at the top of some antique columns (corinthian order I think). I knew the expression "acanthus leaves" and searched for "real" ones. Found this for example.

  3. I knew right off that they were acanthus leaves and image search bore that out (used search by image with the url of your column picture). Acanthus leaves are often used as ornamentation on columns (

  4. life imitating art…from the ground up topsy-turvy… Corinthian/acanthus leaves
    did you see your examples at The Palace of Fine Arts?
    SF, Marina District similar arrangement
    the closeness of nature
    a how to
    a gap between parts l & ll
    in Rome - smile - fwiw (an inside Greek joke)

    … thinking about architecture? possible reason? but I digress…
    Charleston East
    for pdf - click Feb. 2016
    deign consultant - 2015, 2nd from bottom
    clean UI

  5. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    My first option was to search by image plant2.jpg. That didn't work so I added "columns" to already suggested plant.

    An image says: "The acanthus plant is the origin of the leaf design used by the Greeks"

    Same photo adding [acanthus plant]

    From Wikipedia: "The leaves of this plant are generally considered by historians to have been the design inspiration for the Corinthian order capitals of Greco-Roman architecture"

    Another acanthus Wikipedia links to
    Corinthian order...Its earliest use can be traced back to the Late Classical Period (430-323 BC)...

    [acanthus column] in images to look more columns and then in All search to find more information and also in Books. Good results

    [acanthus plant in column]

    The symbolism and meaning associated with the Acanthus is that of enduring life, and the plant is traditionally displayed at funerary celebrations.

    In Christianity the thorny leaves represent pain, sin and punishment. Acanthus symbolizes immortality in Mediterranean countries.

    According to legend...

    Wildly Successful: Acanthus mollis

    [acanthus plant in column origin]

    Khan Academy:the sculptor Callimachus drew a set of acanthus leaves surrounding a votive basket (Vitr. 4.1.9-10)


    1. What about seeing this plant at the base of these columns made me smile? What's funny / odd / surprising about this little scene?

    That the plant is the inspiration for the column Capital in the The Corinthian Order, and also that now, the column has Acanthus in the top and also in the bottom.

    Never noticed the plants before in the columns nor knew the History. It is super interesting and fun, thanks Dr. Russell

    1. [plants AROUND(3) ancient architecture]

      Gallery of trees and plants in the ancient Egyptian garden

      a green roof, also known as a living roof or sod roof

      [plants around(3) ancient architecture columns]

      Papyrus Column

      [acanthus plant architecture -columns]

      [plants aesthetic basis]

      [plants imitated architecture]

    2. Thanks Remmij for sharing the links :) Since Dr. Russell posted about Philae being reading and wanting more information.

  6. I searched "plants on greek columns" and up cam Acanthus. According to Wikipedia: Acanthus is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, native to tropical and warm temperate regions, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. Common names include Acanthus and Bear's breeches. The generic name derives from the Greek term for the Acanthus mollis, ἄκανθος, akanthos, a plant that was commonly imitated in Corinthian capitals.[2][3]
    I verified this with links to the Missouri Botanical Garden and and Buffalo Architecture and History How ironic that they were growing at the base of these columns.

  7. I suggest the acanthus at the bottom and at the top of the columns is cute

  8. fwiw: Dan's photo|column location… (if those are 'Dan's pics')
    BINGO! acanthus & pipes… worth the 360˚… took a while before I thought of Maps… slow brain… first photosphere I picked
    also, in the three column examples photo group - on the right… the columns around the Rotunda…
    red columns and urns
    revisit of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition plan
    pretty sure it is the Palace of Fine Arts
    additional pics
    base detail appears to match
    btw, nice finds & info Ramón – enjoyed reading through them – the Kahn link stood out.
    also in 1st post; should have read 'design consultant' in reference to Bjarke Ingels/ BIG

    — jmho, it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out:
    …designed to make the  ◎ look a tad stodgy/stiff & uhh… 'mature'…
     - March progress view
    supplemental to the 60 Minutes profile
    T. Heatherwick
    talkie — nice ol' 'Plex views and conceptualization
    and then there is Frank|Mark
    and (I know, a bit harsh) Nature can be beautiful & cruel simultaneously… it's Darwin|Carson-esque
    the YahooPlexUmpus

  9. think this is the exact spot of the 2nd photograph… impressed that Maps|photospheres can be that specific
    may have parked in the Innovation Hanger lot…?
    excellent photos by Minh T. Nguyen
    map location
    overall context - center of image

    1. That's correct... but HOW did you discover this?

    2. … i tend to think of the 'WHY', don't always recall the 'HOW'… maybe used 'I'm feeling lucky'? or a pattern was detected… try to add 2+2… sometimes get 5…
      knew it was that spot because of the unique markers on the columns…

      back from Finland? (apologies to HvE – hope you do the joint session at some point… Henk seems to be a funny guy)
      dang… hangin' with the big dogs…
      third Nordic Data Journalism Conference
      good info! - Advanced skills for investigation research (tipsheet)
      next year - 55.395833, 10.388611 (2017)

  10. For only the second or third time, I just knew the answer. I think they were planted deliberately

  11. This botanist knew the plant and the story right up!