Abutilon theophrasti

Scientific Name Abutilon theophrasti Medicus
Synonyms Abutilon avicennae Gaertner, Sida abutilon L.
Common Names English: Velvetleaf; Spanish: Abutilon; German: Samtpappel, Lindenblättrige Schönmalve, Europa-Samtpappel, Chinesischer Hanf; French: abutilon d'Avicenne; Italian: cencio molle
Description Erect, annual seed-propagated weed with taproot, originates from China and Tibet where it was grown as fiber crop and medicinal plant, introduced as a crop into Europe and North America, where it became a severe weed.


Characteristic Features

Seedlings with 1 round and 1 heart-shaped cotyledon, plants covered with short, soft hairs. Plants emit an unpleasant odor when crushed.

Young Plant

Inverse cordate, long-petiolate, cordate emarginate on the petiole, entire, dull light green.
First true leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, covered with hairs on both surfaces and toothed margins.


Cotyledons have slightly different shapes, one is nearly round, the other, more heart-shaped. Both cotyledon margins are entire, and cotyledons are covered on both surfaces with short hairs.


Erect, velvet-hirsute, usually not ramified stem, up to 100 (200) cm (39-78.7 inch) tall.


Broad cordate with elongated tip and cordate leaf base (like limetree-leaves), long-etiolate, leaf-edge serrulate, densely hairy on both surfaces.

Propagation Organs


Produced on short flower stalks (pedicels) in the upper portions of the plant between the stems and the leaf petioles (leaf axils). Flowers are solitary, approximately 1.75 - 2.5 cm (0.68 - 0.98 inch) wide, and consist of 5 orange-yellow petals.

Flowering Period



Circular capsule reaching about 2.5 cm (0.98 inch) in diameter. Each capsule contains a ring of 'prickles' around the upper edge.


Germinate in spring.

Viability of Seeds

50 - 60 years.


By seeds, 500 - 10,000 seeds/plant.



Waste areas, roadsides, vacant lots, fence rows and around farmsteads where it is found in barnyards, cultivated fields and gardens.


Sandy loams to loams, moist, nutrient-rich locations and warm climate.

Additional Crop Information

Also in alfalfa and peanuts.

Agricultural Importance

One of the worst agricultural weeds in corn, soybeans and sugar beet in North America, strongly competes for light and water with the crop and releases allelochemicals that reduce growth and emergence of neighboring plants. A. theophrasti causes high yield losses and interferes with harvesting. The weed has again been introduced into Western Europe probably via contaminated inter crop seeds from Eastern Europe.


Useful non-chemical contribution to Integrated Weed Management

Small populations, and individual young plants are easy to control by hand pulling, before flower production. Cultivation of row crops is effective if controlled late in the season, before seed pod production. Close mowing is effective if mowed prior to seed production.

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