Abutilon theophrasti

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Abutilon theophrasti
Abutilon theophrasti 2006.10.11 17.01.39-pa110057.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Malvales
Family: Malvaceae
Genus: Abutilon
Species: A. theophrasti
Binomial name
Abutilon theophrasti
Medik., 1787
  • Abutilon abutilon (L.) Rusby
  • Abutilon avicennae


Abutilon theophrasti (velvetleaf, velvet plant, velvetweed, Chinese jute,[2] China jute, crown weed, buttonweed, lantern mallow, butterprint, pie-marker, or Indian mallow) is an annual plant in the family Malvaceae, native to southern Asia. Its specific epithet theophrasti commemorates the ancient Greek botanist-philosopher Theophrastus.[3]


|It grows 1-8 ft tall, and has velvet-like heart-shaped leaves covered in velvety stellate trichomes 15–25 cm broad. The flowers are yellow or orange and have five slightly notched petals. Each flower is 4 cm diameter, maturing into button-shaped capsules which split lengthwise to release the seeds. The flowers and plants have a fruity scent.

Velvetleaf grows as a weed primarily in cropland, especially corn fields, and it can also be found on roadsides and in gardens.[4] Velvetleaf prefers rich and cultivated soils, such as those used in agriculture.

Flower and leaves
Abutilon theophrasti - MHNT
Schizocarp on a plant that grew in California.

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Velvetleaf has been grown in China since around 2000 BCE for its strong, jute-like fibre. The leaves are edible, stir-fried or in omelette. The plant is known as maabulha in the Maldives and its leaves were part of the traditional Maldivian cuisine, usually finely chopped and mixed with Maldive fish and grated coconut in a dish known as mas huni.[5] The seeds are eaten in China and Kashmir.[6]

Invasive species[edit]

In midwestern and northeastern regions of the United States, eastern Canada and the Eastern Mediterranean, A. theophrasti is considered a damaging weed to agricultural crops, especially corn and soybeans.[7]

Since being introduced to North America in the 18th century, velvetleaf has become an invasive species in agricultural regions of the eastern and midwestern United States. It is one of the most detrimental weeds to corn causing decreases of up to 34% of crop yield if not controlled and costing hundreds of millions of dollars per year in control and damage. Velvetleaf is an extremely competitive plant, so much so that it can steal nutrients and water from crops.[8] Velvetleaf is controllable by herbicides.


  1. ^ "Abutilon theophrasti". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved January 26, 2008.
  2. ^ "velvetweed" in The Columbia-Viking Desk Encyclopedia (1953), New York: Viking.
  3. ^ De Ruff, Robert. "A short description of Abutilon theophrasti". Plants of Upper Newport Bay.
  4. ^ Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. Ditomaso, Weeds of The Northeast, (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), p. 256-257
  5. ^ Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom, Barcelona 1999, ISBN 84-7254-801-5
  6. ^ "Velvetleaf". Written Findings of the State Noxious Weed Control Board - Class A Weed. February 2000. Archived from the original on 2006-06-16.
  7. ^ Hameed A. Baloch, Antonio DiTommaso and Alan K. Watson. "Intrapopulation variation in Abutilon theophrasti seed mass and its relationship to seed germinability" (PDF). Seed Science Research (2001) 11, 335–343. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-28.
  8. ^ Davis, K. Renner, C. Sprague, L. Dyer, D. Mutch (2005). Integrated Weed Management. MSU

External links[edit]