Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Abutilon theophrasti
(velvet leaf)



Abutilon theophrasti (velvet leaf)


  • Last modified
  • 17 January 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Abutilon theophrasti
  • Preferred Common Name
  • velvet leaf
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. theophrasti continues to expand its distribution in North America, Europe, Korea and Japan, by cultivation as a fibre crop, and by accidental introduction from contamination of grains and crop seeds. The species causes serious economic damage to a...

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Seedling of A. theophrasti.
CaptionSeedling of A. theophrasti.
CopyrightShunji Kurokawa
Seedling of A. theophrasti.
SeedlingSeedling of A. theophrasti.Shunji Kurokawa
Juvenile plant of A. theophrasti.
TitleJuvenile plant
CaptionJuvenile plant of A. theophrasti.
CopyrightShunji Kurokawa
Juvenile plant of A. theophrasti.
Juvenile plantJuvenile plant of A. theophrasti.Shunji Kurokawa
Flower of A. theophrasti.
CaptionFlower of A. theophrasti.
CopyrightShunji Kurokawa
Flower of A. theophrasti.
FlowerFlower of A. theophrasti.Shunji Kurokawa
Maize field in Japan infested by A. theophrasti.
CaptionMaize field in Japan infested by A. theophrasti.
CopyrightShunji Kurokawa
Maize field in Japan infested by A. theophrasti.
InfestationMaize field in Japan infested by A. theophrasti.Shunji Kurokawa


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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

EPPO code

  • ABUTH (Abutilon theophrasti)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page A. theophrasti continues to expand its distribution in North America, Europe, Korea and Japan, by cultivation as a fibre crop, and by accidental introduction from contamination of grains and crop seeds. The species causes serious economic damage to agricultural production, particularly maize, soyabeans and cotton. On the other hand, the species is not invasive to natural vegetation in any area and the impact on biodiversity is small. A. theophrasti is not listed as a global invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Malvales
  •                         Family: Malvaceae
  •                             Genus: Abutilon
  •                                 Species: Abutilon theophrasti

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page Mitch (1991) reports the nomenclatural history of A. theophrasti. Carolus Linnaeus classified this species as Sida abutilon. Its genus companions included such plants as Sida spinosa L. In 1787, Friedrich Casimir Medicus, director of the garden at Mannheim, published a volume in which he rearranged the Malvaceae, placing Sida abutilon in the genus Abutilon with the specific epithet theophrasti. Joseph Gaertner reclassified the plant as Abutilon avicennae, but scientific precedence held sway, and Medicus's name was restored.

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'.


Top of page Abutilon theophrasti is an annual herb, reproducing only by seed. After germination, a slender taproot elongates into soil with many smaller branches. The stem is erect, 1-4 m, much branched in the upper part. The crop type tends to produce many more branches than the wild type. The surface of the stem is smooth with short velvety hairs. Sixteen to sixty-three leaves per plant are alternately produced with long petioles, and a broadly heart-shaped blade. The width of the leaf blade is 7-20 cm and the leaf area ranges from 300 to 470 cm².

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.


Top of page In the genus Abutilon, only A. theophrasti occurs in temperate climates, with other Abutilon species found in tropical and subtropical climates. A. theophrasti originated in India or China. A. theophrasti was introduced into North America from Europe or Asia, and occurs throughout the United States between 32 and 45°N latitude, and in Ontario and Quebec in Canada, as a major agricultural weed. A. theophrasti also occurs in Europe, particularly in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean region, and its range continues to spread throughout Europe. It is absent from South and Central America.

Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HubeiPresentNative Not invasive Wood, 1992; USDA-ARS, 2003
-JilinPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
-LiaoningPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
IndiaAbsent, formerly presentNative Not invasive Wood, 1992
IranAbsent, formerly presentFaseli, 1977
IsraelAbsent, formerly presentWood, 1992
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HonshuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Kurokawa, 2001; Kurokawa, 2002; Nishida, 2002; Watanabe et al., 2002
-KyushuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Kurokawa, 2001; Kurokawa, 2002; Nishida, 2002
-ShikokuWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Kurokawa, 2001; Kurokawa, 2002; Nishida, 2002
KazakhstanPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
Korea, Republic ofWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Lee et al., 1997; Park et al., 2001; Kang and Shim, 2002
PakistanAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedKahn et al., 1981
TurkeyRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Uremis and Uygur, 1999; Uremis and Uygur, 2002


EritreaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
EthiopiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
MoroccoPresentIntroduced1980 Invasive Tanji and Taleb, 1997; Taleb et al., 1998

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-New BrunswickRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Warwick and Black, 1988
-Nova ScotiaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Invasive Warwick and Black, 1988
-OntarioWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Warwick and Black, 1988
-QuebecWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Doyon et al., 1986; Warwick and Black, 1988
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ArizonaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ArkansasPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-CaliforniaWidespreadIntroduced1917 Not invasive Holt and Boose, 2000; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ColoradoPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-ConnecticutPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-DelawarePresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-GeorgiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IdahoPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IllinoisWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Stoller et al., 1993; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IndianaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Jordan, 1980; Jordan, 1984; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-IowaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Bello and Owen, 1986; Hartzler, 1996; Felix and Owen, 2001; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-KansasPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-KentuckyPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-LouisianaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MainePresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MarylandPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MassachusettsPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MichiganPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MinnesotaPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MississippiPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MissouriPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MontanaWidespreadIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002; Rice, 2003
-NebraskaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-NevadaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New HampshirePresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New JerseyPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New MexicoPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-New YorkPresentIntroduced Not invasive Dillard et al., 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-North CarolinaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-North DakotaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OhioPresentIntroduced Not invasive Loux and Berry, 1991; USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OklahomaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OregonPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-PennsylvaniaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-Rhode IslandPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-South CarolinaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-South DakotaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-TennesseePresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-TexasPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-UtahPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-VermontPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-VirginiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WashingtonPresentIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002; USDA-ARS, 2003
-West VirginiaPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WyomingPresentIntroduced Not invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002


BulgariaPresentIntroduced Invasive Konstantinov and Nikolova, 1983
CroatiaPresentIntroduced198* Invasive Jurkovic and Culek, 1997; Hulina, 2000
DenmarkPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
FrancePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
GermanyPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
GreecePresentIntroducedBoliotes, 1984
HungaryWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Szoke, 2001
ItalyWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Campagna and Rapparini, 1997; USDA-ARS, 2003
NetherlandsPresentIntroducedNetherlands Plantenziektenkundige Dienst, 1982; USDA-ARS, 2003
PolandPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
PortugalPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
RomaniaPresentIntroducedChirila and Pintilie, 1986; USDA-ARS, 2003
Russian FederationPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Russian Far EastPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
-Southern RussiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
SloveniaPresentIntroducedLesnik, 2000
SpainWidespreadIntroducedFraga et al., 2001
SwedenPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
SwitzerlandPresentIntroduced Invasive Gut and Weber, 1999; USDA-ARS, 2003
UKPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
UkrainePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2003
Yugoslavia (former)PresentIntroducedOgnjanovic et al., 1986

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page Abutilon theophrasti has been introduced into countries worldwide and cultivated as a fibre crop. Accidental introductions, mixed in grains or crop seeds, are also important pathways for the spread of the species.

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 Introduction

Top of page There is a risk of continued spread of A. theophrasti through accidental introduction by the contamination of grains or crop seeds. A. theophrasti is listed as a noxious weed in Colorado, a secondary noxious weed in Iowa and Minnesota, a 'B' designated weed in Oregon, and a class A noxious weed in Washington, USA. However, it is not listed in the Federal Noxious Weed List for the USA.


Top of page A. theophrasti in its introduced areas is found in wasteland, vacant lots, gardens and cultivated fields, especially maize and soyabean fields and along fence rows (Warwick and Black, 1988).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page A. theophrasti competes with the listed crops for light and nutrients. Allelopathic chemicals from seeds or leaves depress the germination and growth of crops (Warwick and Black, 1988). Because maize leaf production is complete by anthesis whereas A. theophrasti continues vegetative production throughout its life cycle, A. theophrasti will produce relatively greater quantities of biomass late in the season, which may increase competition for light (Lindquist, 2001).

Growth Stages

Top of page Flowering stage, Fruiting stage, Pre-emergence, Seedling stage, Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

Top of page The chromosome number of A. theophrasti is 2n=6X=42. Hybridization between A. theophrasti and other species has not been reported. In a study of allozyme variations among 39 populations of A. theophrasti collected between southern Ohio (39°N) and Central Ontario (45°N), only two of 16 enzymes were variable and only four multilocus electrophoretic genotypes were evident among populations, although high levels of enzyme multiplicity were evident within an individual as a result of polyploidy (Warwick and Black, 1986).

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.

Reproductive Biology

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).

Environmental Requirements

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 Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
0 0 0 0

Air Temperature

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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


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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall00mm; lower/upper limits

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Althaeus folkertsi Herbivore Seeds
Colletotrichum coccodes Pathogen Leaves
Colletotrichum gloeosporioides f.sp. malvae Pathogen
Fusarium oxysporum Pathogen
Gibberella baccata Pathogen Leaves/Roots/Stems
Liorhyssus hyalinus Herbivore Seeds
Niesthrea louisianica Herbivore Seeds
Sclerotinia sclerotiorum Pathogen Stems
Septoria glycines Pathogen Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page Most of the organisms listed in the Natural Enemies table cause serious damage to A. theophrasti. All the species listed are found as natural infections. A wilt pathogen, Verticillium dahliae, causes necrosis to leaves of A. theophrasti and reduces seed production. Infections of A. theophrasti by the pathogen have been reported in Illinois (Kirkpatrick and Harrison, 1979), Wisconsin (Sickinger and Harvey, 1980; Sickinger et al., 1987), Iowa (Hartzler, 1996) and Indiana (Wiley et al., 1985) in the USA.

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 Dispersal

Top of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

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.

Agricultural Practices

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.

Accidental Introduction

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).

Intentional Introduction

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.

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility 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)
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants
Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches

Impact Summary

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Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) None
Crop production Negative
Environment (generally) None
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production None
Human health None
Livestock production Negative
Native fauna None
Native flora None
Rare/protected species None
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page A. theophrasti causes severe crop loss in maize, soyabean and cotton. In soyabean, 72% crop loss can be caused by infestation of A. theophrasti (Sterling and Putnam, 1987), while 70% crop loss has been recorded in maize (Campbell and Hartwig, 1982). In the United States, the estimated cost for control of A. theophrasti was $343 million in 1982 (Spencer, 1984).

Environmental Impact

Top of page Environmental impact of A. theophrasti may be small, because the species is not invasive to natural vegetation in any area.

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page No instance of competition or hybridization with native flora has been reported.

Social Impact

Top of page There is little social impact, but the species has a peculiar smell which can be offensive.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • 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
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page Spencer (1984) noted that bast fibre of A. theophrasti was used to make rope, cordage, bags, coarse cloth, fishing nets and paper stock, and for caulking boats, in China since 2000 B.C. Seeds contain 15-30% lipid and are edible.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page There are no similar species which could be confused in the field.

Prevention and Control

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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.

Cultural Control

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.

Mechanical Control

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.

Chemical Control

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).

Biological Control

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.

Integrated Control

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.


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Andersen RN, 1988. Outcrossing in velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti). Weed Science, 36(5):599-602

Andersen RN; Menges RM; Conn JS, 1985. Variability in velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) and reproduction beyond its current range in North America. Weed Science, 33(4):507-512

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

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Links to Websites

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GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.

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