Abutilon theophrasti Medik.



CC = *
CW = 3
MOC = 50

© SRTurner

Family - Malvaceae

Habit - Taprooted annual forb.

Abutilon_theophrasti_root.jpg Root.

© SRTurner

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

Abutilon_theophrasti_stem.jpg Stem.

© SRTurner

Leaves - Alternate, simple, long petiolate. Blades to 20 cm long, heart shaped, strongly cordate at the base, abruptly long-tapered at the tip, the margins entire or shallowly toothed, densely pubescent with stellate hairs. Surfaces soft and velvety to the touch. Stipules 3-8 mm long, linear, shed early.

Abutilon_theophrasti_vestiture.jpg Leaf surface pubescence.

© SRTurner

Abutilon_theophrasti_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Abutilon_theophrasti_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

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

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 orange-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_calyx.jpg Calyx.

© DETenaglia

Abutilon_theophrasti_corolla.jpg Corolla.

© SRTurner

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_flower.jpg Fruit.

© SRTurner

Abutilon_theophrasti_fruit1.jpg Flower and fruit.

© SRTurner

Abutilon_theophrasti_fruit2.jpg Sectioned fruit with immature seeds.

© SRTurner

Abutilon_theophrasti_fruit3.jpg Sectioned fruit with mature seeds.

© SRTurner

Flowering - June - October.

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

Origin - Native to India.

Lookalikes - None.

Other info. - This plant can be found throughout Missouri, and also occurs in many parts of the continental U.S., particularly the upper Midwest. 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 has researched 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. It is easy to identify as nothing else in the state much resembles it.

The colloquial name "velvet-leaf" is appropriate, as the dense covering of hairs on the leaves give them a soft, velvety feel. The species epithet theophrasti commemorates the Greek botanist and philosopher Theophrastus. The plant 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 near Marthasville, Warren County, MO, 10-13-2011, at Dresser Island Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 8-13-2012, Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area, St. Charles County, MO, 8-01-2018, Creve Coeur Lake Park, St. Louis County, MO, 9-17-2019, and near Fremont, Newaygo County, MI, 9-25-2021 (SRTurner).