Hollyhock ~ Alcea
Image by: wintersown
Hollyhocks are an endearing old fashioned plant. No cottage garden is complete without hollyhocks in it. There are annual, biennial, and perennial hollyhocks, they can be as short as three feet high or tower over our heads. Flower forms include single, semi-double, and fully double with a gazillion petals. The seed collection technique is the same for all. The seeds are very easy to gather, but there are a few special considerations to keep in mind.
Allow the flowers to mature and the petals to drop naturally from the plant, do not remove the spent blossoms from the plant. At the base of the flower will develop a plump green disk. As it matures it will grow and eventually turn a yellowy-brown. Soon after the color change the top of the pod will open to reveal a ring of seeds. The seeds are dark gray flat rounds, aligned in a circle, sides touching.
Remove the pod and allow it to dry for a few days. Then with your fingers pull back the top of the pod and remove the seeds, spread them out in an even layer on a plate and place it in direct sun. The reason for placing the plate of seeds in direct sun is that sometimes hollyhock seed pods can contain weevils. A weevil is a small dark brown beetle-shaped bug with a downward pointing head that tapers to a snout, it has visible antennae. Weevils do not like bright sunlight and will rapidly scurry off the plate. I use a real plate, instead of a paper plate, so that it does not blow away if there is a gust of wind.
Some people feel an itchy sensation on their skin from the pod of the hollyhock. When I work with hollyhock pods I wear a turtleneck shirt with long sleeves. After removing the seeds to a drying plate I wash my hands well and change my shirt to avoid the itch. While removing seeds I try not to wipe my face or stroke my hair back with my hand. Even with these precautions I may still start to itch and so a shower is warranted.
After the seeds have been in full sun for about an hour I give them a stir and see if any other weevils crawl off the plate. If I don't see anymore weevils I bring the plate back inside and allow the seeds to dry for a few more days before packing them.
Hollyhocks are well known for cross-hybridization. The seeds of one plant may produce a myriad of flower variations. All are extremely beautiful. I always anxiously wait to see the colors from a new batch of hollyhock seedlings because each one is lovelier than the next.