‘Bill Archer’ is a variegated strain of the herb borage (Borago officinalis) with showy, cream-splashed foliage. The amount and brightness of the leaf markings varies greatly from plant to plant, and even on one plant, depending on the temperature and the stage of growth. The edible flowers are the usual brilliant blue of common borage, on plants that generally reach 12 to 18 inches tall. Full sun to light shade. Annual.
I collected these seeds in 2020, starting in late June. Each packet contains at least 5 seeds. Why so few? I used to think that this strain simply didn’t produce many viable seeds. This year, however, I finally realized that ants carry off nearly all of the seeds before I can gather them, even if I check the plants frequently. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that borage seeds have a fleshy appendage called an elaiosome, which is high in fats and nutrients. Ants carry the seeds back to their nests, eat the elaisomes, and then discard the seeds. This process of seed dispersal is known as myrmecochory, or myrmecochorous dispersal. Isn’t that cool? It makes gathering the seeds challenging for us, but I encourage you to try collecting from your own plants and passing them along to friends or seed exchanges so this beautiful strain does not get lost.
By the way, once you get even one ‘Bill Archer’ plant to flower in your garden, you are likely to find its variegated seedlings popping up in unexpected places–often in groups, apparently marking where ants were nesting the previous season. While borage generally isn’t thrilled about transplanting, I’ve found that the volunteers usually recover all right if you move them when they are still small (at the 2- or 3-leaf stage).