Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Abutilon theophrasti Medic.
Preferred Common Name
- velvet leaf
Other Scientific Names
- Abutilon avicennae Gaertn..
- Sida abutilon L.
International Common Names
- English: China jute; Chinese lantern; Indian mallow; piemarker; velvetleaf
- Spanish: malva blanca; malva de terciopelo; malva grande; yute de la China
- French: jute de Chine
- Chinese: ching-ma
Local Common Names
- Germany: Chinesische Jute; Chinesischer Hanf; Lindenblaettrige Schoenmalve; Samtpappel
- Italy: cencio molle; Iuta cinese
- Japan: bouma; ichibi
- USA: butterprint; buttonweed
- ABUTH (Abutilon theophrasti)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Malvales
- Family: Malvaceae
- Genus: Abutilon
- Species: Abutilon theophrasti
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
The common names include several names meaning a kind of jute or hemp, because of the utilization of A. theophrasti as a fibre crop; for example, 'ma' of 'ching-ma' and the name 'bouma' mean 'hemps'.
DescriptionTop of page
Flowers are located in the leaf axils of the main stem and short terminal branches, and have five yellow to yellow-orange petals slightly notched apically, 1.3-2.5 cm wide when open. The peduncles are shorter than the petioles. Anther filaments are united to form a central column. Seed pods or capsules with circular clusters of 12-15 carpels (seed pods) are cup shaped, 1.3-2.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide, hairy and beaked. Each carpel contains 1-3 seeds. Mature capsules differ in colour between plant types. The capsule of the crop type is ivory whereas that of the other forms of A. theophrasti is black. The seeds are purplish-brown, kidney-shaped, notched, flattened, 1 mm thick and 2-3 mm long.
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|China||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|India||Absent, Formerly present|
|Iran||Absent, Formerly present|
|Israel||Absent, Formerly present|
|Japan||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|Pakistan||Absent, Formerly present|
|South Korea||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive|
|Croatia||Present||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 198*|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Introduced|
|Russia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Introduced|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New Brunswick||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Nova Scotia||Absent, Formerly present|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Spencer (1984) summarized the history of A. theophrasti in the USA. Before 1700, early North American settlers had introduced A. theophrasti from England as an essential source of plant fibres. A. theophrasti had become common in at least two states, Pennsylvania and Virginia, by 1829. However, the inferior characteristics of the fibre of A. theophrasti could have contributed to the lack of interest in A. theophrasti as a fibre plant in the USA. Since the 1870s, the status of A. theophrasti has changed to that of a major weed.
In Canada, Warwick and Black (1988) report the history of spread of A. theophrasti. On the basis of herbarium records, A. theophrasti colonies were small in Canada until 1950. By 1984, its range as a weed of cultivated land extended to all but three counties in Ontario, 72 localities in Quebec, and at least one location near Wilmo, Nova Scotia. The spread would appear to be due to movement of seed in feed grain, mainly maize and soyabeans, and on tillage and harvesting equipment.
In Japan, A. theophrasti must have been introduced as a fibre crop before 918, because the name already existed in old Japanese literature edited in 918. Since 1980, weedy strains have been accidentally introduced, mixed in feed grains from the United States and Australia, and occur as a troublesome weed in maize fields all over Japan (Kurokawa et al., 2003). A. theophrasti has also been accidentally introduced into Morocco mixed in crop seeds, and it has become a serious weed since 1980 (Tanji and Taleb, 1997). In Europe, there is little information about the first records of the species.
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Allium cepa (onion)||Liliaceae||Other|
|Beta vulgaris (beetroot)||Chenopodiaceae||Other|
|Brassica oleracea var. capitata (cabbage)||Brassicaceae||Other|
|Brassica rapa subsp. rapa (turnip)||Brassicaceae||Other|
|Glycine max (soyabean)||Fabaceae||Main|
|Gossypium hirsutum (Bourbon cotton)||Malvaceae||Main|
|Helianthus annuus (sunflower)||Asteraceae||Other|
|Hordeum vulgare (barley)||Poaceae||Other|
|Pennisetum glaucum (pearl millet)||Poaceae||Other|
|Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)||Fabaceae||Other|
|Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Solanum tuberosum (potato)||Solanaceae||Other|
|Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)||Poaceae||Other|
|Triticum aestivum (wheat)||Poaceae||Other|
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Physiology and Phenology
The optimal temperature for germination of A. theophrasti seeds is 24-30°C. Seeds emerge in soil between 1 and 5 cm depth. A. theophrasti emerges throughout the season (Warwick and Black, 1988), mainly from March to May in the United States (Stoller and Wax, 1973; Egley and Williams, 1991; Hartzler et al., 1999). Emerging seedlings immediately produce a taproot, followed by development of lateral roots 1 or 2 days after emergence (Warwick and Black, 1988). Under non-competitive field conditions in Mississippi, maximum height and ground cover occurred 10 weeks after emergence with peak capsule production at 13 weeks (Chandler and Dale, 1974).
Oliver (1979) suggested that A. theophrasti was highly photoperiodic (a short-day plant). In eastern Canada, A. theophrasti starts to flower in late August to September, setting seed from September to October (Warwick and Black, 1988). A. theophrasti has some freely moving leaves that maintain a small angle between the normal to the leaf and the sun's rays (Jurik and Akey, 1994). The freely moving leaves have higher total daily carbon gain, transpiration and water use efficiency than leaves fixed in a horizontal position.
A. theophrasti is a self-compatible, autogamous species. As pollen of A. theophrasti is released by the anthers before or in immediate conjunction with flower opening, pollination would have occurred before stigmas could be exposed to pollen from another flower (Andersen, 1988). Approximately 3% of seeds produced in field conditions could originate from outcrossing, in occasionally found buds with a stigma protruding from otherwise tightly closed petals (Andersen, 1988).
Propagation is always by seeds, which are produced in large numbers, varying from 700 to 44,200 per plant. Seeds mature 17-22 days after pollination. Seeds are dispersed by opening of each carpel with a vertical slit along the outer edge. Seeds are known to remain viable for up to 50 years when stored dry or in the soil (Shaw and Brown, 1972).
In North America, A. theophrasti is absent from the prairies, where the dry climate and high evaporation restrict growth (Lindsay, 1953). Although A. theophrasti is continuing to expand northward into Canada with climates of progressively shorter growing seasons, it does not reproduce in Alaska with only 88 frost-free days (Andersen et al., 1985). A. theophrasti occurs on a range of soil types, from sandy to clay loams (Warwick and Black, 1988). In the mid-western United States and southwestern Ontario, Canada, A. theophrasti commonly occurs together with Datura stramonium in the early successional annual community that develops on cultivated fields and field margins (Benner and Bazzaz, 1987; Garbutt and Bazzaz, 1987).
A. theophrasti is host for a maize pest, Helicoverpa zea; a tobacco pest, Heliothis virescens (Hendricks, 1992); and three soyabean diseases, Diaporthe phaseolorum var. sojae, Collectotrichum dematium f.sp. truncatum and Glomerella cingulata (Hepperly et al., 1980). A fungal association consisting of Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Epicoccum purpurascens and Fusarium spp. may extend A. theophrasti seed longevity by acting as a barrier to potential seed decomposers originating from the soil (Kremer, 1986). It has been reported that mycorrhizal infestation of A. theophrasti promotes capsule production and increases the competitive ability of the offspring (Shumway and Koide, 1995; Heppell et al., 1998).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean annual temperature (ºC)||7|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||18|
|Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC)||-8|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||0||0||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
- seasonally waterlogged
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f.sp. malvae||Pathogen|
|Gibberella baccata||Pathogen||Plants|Leaves; Plants|Roots; Plants|Stems|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Gibb (1991) studied five insect species, Heliothis zea [Helicoverpa zea], H. virescens, Liorhyssus hyalinus, Niestrea louisianica and Althaeus folkertsi, attacking A. theophrasti seeds, and noted that these species had a significant negative impact on the number of viable A. theophrasti seeds produced in Indiana, USA. N. louisianica reduced the number of viable seeds of A. theophrasti by 17.5% and 15.5% in two places in Missouri (Kremer and Spencer, 1989).
Colletotrichum coccodes has been investigated as a possible mycoherbicide (Gotlieb et al., 1987; Fernando et al., 1996). The pathogen causes more serious damage to A. theophrasti in competitive conditions with soyabeans than in monoculture (Ditommaso et al., 1996).
Infection by Phomopsis longicolla was first reported in Illinois, USA, in 2000 (Li et al., 2001). The pathogen causes reddish-brown lesions on the lower stem and upper root area of A. theophrasti plants growing in soyabean fields. Turnip mosaic potyvirus also caused severe mosaic symptoms to A. theophrasti in Piedmont, northwest Italy (Guglielmone et al., 2000). A. theophrasti can be a host of a parasitic plant, Cuscuta pentagona, only when roots of A. theophrasti are colonized by mycorrhizal fungi (Glomus intraradices) (Sanders et al., 1993).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Propagation is wholly by seeds, which are produced in very large numbers. Seeds are dispersed by the gravity dispersal system.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
No relevant instances have been documented.
Movement of seeds by agricultural practices such s fibre crop cultivation, and transportation of crop seeds or grains, are very important for spreading A. theophrasti.
An important pathway of introduction is the accidental contamination of feed grains. Much of the spread of A. theophrasti in eastern Canada would appear to be due to movement of seed in feed grain, mainly maize and soyabeans, and on tillage and harvesting equipment (Brown, 1985). In Japan, rapid spread as a serious weed was caused by feed grains containing A. theophrasti seeds imported from the United States and Australia (Kurokawa, 2002). The accidental contamination of crop seeds is another pathway (Ilic and Kalinovic, 1995; Tanji and Taleb, 1997). Manure could also be a vector of A. theophrasti seeds (Mt. Pleasant and Schlather, 1994; Nishida, 2002).
In the United States, A. theophrasti seeds were introduced as a fibre crop in the eighteenth century (Spencer, 1984). The introduction of seeds for development of fibre crop cultivation may have been one of the most important intentional introduction pathways. However, at present this pathway may not be important because of the decline in A. theophrasti cultivation.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
|Containers and packaging - wood||Yes|
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Growing medium accompanying plants||seeds|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Sato et al. (2000) noted that a living mulch of Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) reduced yield loss in the late spring sowing of maize in Japan. Lueschen and Andersen (1980) suggested that intensive tillage could decrease the seed population.
Hand-pulling can be effective on young seedlings but is impractical in large fields of maize, soyabeans and cotton in intensive agriculture. Machine intertillage in row crops is also effective only in relatively small fields.
Effective herbicides include metribuzin, atrazine, 2,4-D, bentazone, bromoxynil, cyanazine, dicamba, linuron, halosulfuron-methyl and fluthiacet-methyl. However, triazine-resistant biotypes of A. theophrasti have been reported in Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota, USA (Ritter, 1986; Grey et al., 1993; Weed Science Society of America, 2003).
Niesthrea lousianica, Fusarium lateritium [Gibberella baccata] and Colletotrichum coccodes have been studied as potential agents for biological control or mycoherbicides (Warwick and Black, 1988). In field tests, pre-emergence applications of F. lateritium in granular formulation gave 46 and 35% control of A. theophrasti in 1982 and 1983, respectively (Boyette and Walker, 1985).
Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f.sp. malvae has been investigated as a potential biocontrol agent. Mortensen (1988) found that the fungus was specific to Malva spp. and A. theophrasti, but was less pathogenic on A. theophrasti. Kutcher and Mortensen (1999) stated that although the fungus is pathogenic on velvetleaf, it does not cause sufficient damage or mortality to be considered as a biological control agent. However, they investigated a range of isolates from Canada which were found to be highly pathogenic on A. theophrasti.
Fusarium oxysporum has also been investigated on A. theophrasti (Kremer and Schulte, 1989; Jennings et al., 2000) In the study by Kremer and Schulte, seedling emergence was decreased when the fungus was applied together with ethephon.
Because A. theophrasti germinates throughout the season, diverse practices are needed to sustain effective control of A. theophrasti infestations, including crop rotation, multiple herbicide applications and cultivations (Warwick and Black, 1988). Bussan and Boerboom (2001) modelled the integrated management of A. theophrasti in a maize-soyabean rotation. Wilt disease or mechanical treatment by inter-row cultivation could reduce the herbicide rate needed to reduce the A. theophrasti seed bank only when initial seed bank density was low.
ReferencesTop of page
Bello IA; Owen MDK, 1986. Effect of Glycine max L. competition on the growth, development and seed production of Abutilon theophrasti. Proceedings, North Central Weed Control Conference Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, Vol. 41:2-3
Boyette CD; Walker HL, 1985. Factors influencing biocontrol of velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) and prickly sida (Sida spinosa) with Fusarium lateritium. Weed Science, 33:209-211.
Brown RH, 1985. Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti Medic.) Factsheet Advisory Information. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food AGDEX 642V.
Ditommaso A; Watson AK; Hallett SG, 1996. Infection by the fungal pathogen Colletotrichum coccodes affects velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti)-soybean competition in the field. Weed Science, 44(4):924-933; 35 ref.
Doyon D; Bouchard CJ; Neron R, 1986. Geographic distribution and importance in crops of four adventitious weeds of Quebec: Abutilon theophrasti, Amaranthus powellii, Acalypha rhomboidea and Panicum dichotomiflorum. Naturaliste Canadien, 113(2):115-123
Fernando WGD; Watson AK; Paulitz TC, 1996. The role of Pseudomonas spp. and competition for carbon, nitrogen and iron in the enhancement of appressorium formation by Colletotrichum coccodes on velvetleaf. European Journal of Plant Pathology, 102(1):1-7; 27 ref.
Fraga P; Mascar= C; Carreras D; Garcia =; Pons M; Truyol M, 2001. Notes and contributions to the knowledge of the flora of Menorca (II). Bolleti^acute~ de la Societat d'Histo^grave~ria Natural de les Balears, 44:73-79; 35 ref.
Guglielmone L; Jenner CE; Walsh JA; Ramasso E; Marian D; Roggero P, 2000. An unusual isolate of turnip mosaic potyvirus from Abutilon theophrasti in Piedmont, Italy. Phytoparasitica, 28(2):149-152; 10 ref.
Ilic V; Kalinovic I, 1995. Contribution to knowledge of foreign matters in stored mercantile maize seed. Acta Agronomica Ovariensis, 37(2):145-152.
Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), 2003. Global Invasive Species Database. http://www.issg.org.
Kahn AG; Ali Z; Mohyuddin AI, 1981. Investigation on the insect enemies of Abutilon, Rumex and Sorghum in Pakistan. Trinidad and Tobago, Commonwalth Institute of Biological Control: Report of work carried out April 1980-March 1981, 41.
Kang BH; Shim SI, 2002. Overall status of naturalized plants in Korea. Korean Journal of Weed Science, 22:207-226.
Kirkpatrick BL; Harrison HF, 1979. Effect of Verticillium on velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti Medic.) survivorship and its theoretical implications. Abstracts of 1979 Meeting of the Weed Science Society of America., 76-77
Kurokawa S, 2002. Alien plants invasion of forage crop fields and artificial grasslands - molecular ecological approach for estimation of rapid increasing process of an exotic invasive weed, Abutilon theophrasti. Grassland Science, 48(2):177-181; 8 ref.
Kurokawa S; Shimizu N; Uozumi S; Yoshimura Y, 2003. Intra-specific variation in morphological characteristics and growth habit of newly and accidentally introduced velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti Medic) into Japan. Weed Biology and Management, 3:28-36.
Lee IY; Park JE; Ryu GH; Park TS; Oh SM; Kim YK, 1997. Germination characteristics and control of Abutilon theophrasti, a troublesome weed in corn fields. Korean Journal of Weed Science, 17(2):163-168; 7 ref.
Lesnik M, 2000. The effects of storage in maize silage and cattle slurry on the germination of Abutilon theophrasti Med. seeds. Zbornik Biotehnis^hacek~ke Fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani. Kmetijstvo, 75(2):223-236; 19 ref.
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Cong Y L, Hou J, Liu L P, Liu Z Y, Pan Y, Zhang X M, Hu T J, Liu F, Yu Y, 2020. First report of anthracnose disease caused by Colletotrichum truncatum on the velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) in China. Plant Disease. 104 (2), 565-565. DOI:10.1094/PDIS-08-19-1657-PDN
Doyon D, Bouchard C J, Néron R, 1986. Geographic distribution and importance in crops of four adventitious weeds of Quebec: Abutilon theophrasti, Amaranthus powellii, Acalypha rhomboidea and Panicum dichotomiflorum. (Répartition géographique et importance dans les cultures de quatre adventices du Québec: Abutilon theophrasti, Amaranthus powellii, Acalypha rhomboidea et Panicum dichotomiflorum.). Naturaliste Canadien. 113 (2), 115-123.
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Hulina N, 2000. Distribution and biology of Abutilon theophrasti Med. in Croatia. (Verbreitung und Biologie von Abutilon theophrasti Med. in Kroatien.). In: Zeitschrift für Pflanzenkrankheiten und Pflanzenschutz [Proceedings 20th German conference on weed biology and weed control, Stuttgart-Hohenheim, Germany, 14-16 March, 2000.], [ed. by Haas H U, Hurle K]. 153-158.
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Kahn AG, Ali Z, Mohyuddin AI, 1981. Investigation on the insect enemies of Abutilon, Rumex and Sorghum in Pakistan. In: Report of work carried out April 1980-March 1981, Trinidad and Tobago: Commonwalth Institute of Biological Control. 41.
Kurokawa S, 2002. Alien plants invasion of forage crop fields and artificial grasslands - molecular ecological approach for estimation of rapid increasing process of an exotic invasive weed, Abutilon theophrasti. Grassland Science. 48 (2), 177-181.
Lee I Y, Park J E, Ryu G H, Park T S, Oh S M, Kim Y K, 1997. Germination characteristics and control of Abutilon theophrasti, a troublesome weed in corn fields. Korean Journal of Weed Science. 17 (2), 163-168.
Lešnik M, 2000. The effects of storage in maize silage and cattle slurry on the germination of Abutilon theophrasti Med. seeds. Zbornik Biotehniške Fakultete Univerze v Ljubljani. Kmetijstvo. 75 (2), 223-236.
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