- Name also: Common Hollyhock
- Family: Mallow Family – Malvaceae
- Growing form: Biennial or perennial herb. Root system wide-spread.
- Height: 100–250 cm (40–100 in.). Stem unbranched.
- Flower: Regular (actinomorphic), 5–10 cm (2–4 in.) wide. Petals 5, red, yellow or white. Calyx 5-lobed. Epicalyx 6–7-lobed. Stamens numerous, stalks grown together, surrounding the pistil like a tube. Pistil of several fused carpels. Inflorescence a spike-like raceme, pedicels very short.
- Leaves: Alternate, stalked, with stipuli. Blade roundly cordate, 3–7-lobed, toothed, wrinkled, coarsely hairy.
- Fruit: Schizocarp many-parted, flat, ring-like. Mericarps (carpels) with wrinkled surface.
- Habitat: Wastelands, field margins, heaps of earth. Ornamental plant, occasionally an escape.
- Flowering time: July–September.
The genus of hollyhocks (Alcea) comprises about 60 species native to Southern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. The genus belongs to the Mallow family, whose flowers are typically characterized by stamen stalks growing together and surrounding the pistil like a tube. Tall hollyhock with its big flowers is an old ornamental favourite, though it is cultivated less frequently nowadays. Winter-sensitive hollyhock is usually grown as an annual plant, but in old Finnish gardening literature some domestic perennial strains are mentioned, which survived the winter without problems. Possibly such a strain, which is well adapted to our climatic conditions, has been preserved somewhere in our country up to this day. The species grows as a garden escape in many European countries, but no originally wild hollyhocks are known at all. It is believed that hollyhock came into existence as the result of crossbreeding of hollyhock species, possibly bristly hollyhock (A. setosa) and A. pallidula.
Hollyhock has some medicinal characteristics, even though marsh mallow (common marshmallow), which nowadays is regarded to belong to a different genus is better known as a medicinal plant. Its flowers are clearly smaller than hollyhock’s, and therefore it is rarely grown as a decorative plant.