Abutilon theophrasti (Velvet Leaf)
|Also known as:||Indian Mallow, Pie-marker|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; disturbed soil; roadsides, waste areas, agricultural margins|
|Bloom season:||August - October|
|Plant height:||3 to 7 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Short-stalked flowers borne singly or in clusters at the leaf axils. The mellow, orange-yellow flowers are ½ to ¾ inch across with 5 squarish petals and a dense cluster of orange colored stamens and styles at the center. The calyx has five lance-like lobes about ¾ the length of the petals. The calyx surfaces and flower stalks are densely hairy.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are broadly heart shaped, 2 to 6 inches long and as wide, with a long stalk, arranged alternately along the main stem. All parts of the plants except the petals are covered with short, dense velvety hairs. Stems are sturdy, mostly simple with few short flowering side branches in upper leaf axils.
Fruits are thick, round button-like, made up of 12 to 15 seed compartments (carpels) each with a sharp spiny beak at its outer tip, and densely covered in velvety hairs. Each compartment contains up to 15 seeds. A mature plant can produce 17,000 seeds. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for over 50 years.
Native to southern Asia and introduced into the US in the 1800s, Velvet Leaf became a serious competitive weed of corn and soy beans (and cotton in the south), save for the use of modern herbicides. It not only sucks out large quantities of water and nutrients from the soil, but also contains chemicals that inhibit germination and growth of other plants, allowing it to form dense monocultures. Presently persisting in untreated field margins, disturbed waste areas and fallow fields, Velvet Leaf is also a very accommodating alternate host for the serious soybean pest - soybean cyst nematode, SCN - Heterodera glycines.
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Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Dakota and Fillmore counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?