Abutilon theophrasti Medic.

Velvet-Leaf

Abutilon theophrasti plant

Family - Malvaceae

Habit - Taprooted annual forb.

Abutilon theophrasti root

Stems - Erect, to 2 m, branched or not, densely pubescent with stellate hairs.

Abutilon theophrasti stem

Leaves - Alternate, long petiolate. Blades to 20 cm long, simple, entire, heart shaped, strongly cordate at base, densely pubescent with stellate hairs. Surfaces soft and velvety to the touch.

Abutilon theophrasti vestitureLeaf surface pubescence.

Abutilon theophrasti leaf1Leaf adaxial.

Abutilon theophrasti leaf2Leaf abaxial.

Inflorescences - Flowers solitary in leaf axils or in loose terminal and axillary clusters.

Flowers - Calyces 5-12 mm long, cup-shaped or becoming reflexed at fruiting, the sepals free nearly to the base, the lobes ovate. Petals 6-15 mm long, the tips truncate or more commonly shallowly notched, yellow to orangish yellow. Stamens numerous, the staminal column circular in cross-section, the anthers yellow. Pistils with 9-15 locules, the carpels arranged in a loose apically flattened ring. Styles fused most of their length, each branch with a globose terminal stigma.

Abutilon theophrasti calyxCalyx.

Abutilon theophrasti corollaCorolla.

Fruits - Schizocarps, splitting into 9-15 mericarps. Mericarps 10-18 mm long, wedge-shaped, becoming blackened at maturity, with a prominent beak, oblong to kidney-shaped in profile, dehiscing apically from the center to the beak at maturity, 3-9-seeded. Seeds 3-4 mm long, kidney- shaped to nearly triangular, the surfaces minutely stellate-hairy, black.

Abutilon theophrasti fruitFruit.

Flowering - June - October.

Habitat - Crop fields, waste ground, disturbed sites, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to India.

Other info. - This plant can be found throughout Missouri. It was originally introduced in the U.S. in the early 1800s as a fiber source for cordage, and has since become one of the most important broadleaf weeds of crop fields in the U.S. In fact, the Syngenta corporation in North Carolina is developing varieties of corn which produce an herbicide specifically targeted against Abutilon. The plant is most commonly seen along disturbed roadsides and in unkempt cultivated fields, and rarely anywhere else.

The entire plant is covered with short, soft trichomes, earning it the common name of "Velvet-leaf." It has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for many ailments, including fever, dysentery, and stomach aches. In experiments it has been shown to be a depressant.

Photographs taken at the Kansas City Zoo, 7-29-01, and in Noel, MO., 8-15-03 (DETenaglia); also along the Katy Trail in Warren County, MO, 10-13-2011; and at Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 8-1-2018 (SRTurner).


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