Abutilon threophrasti (Velvet Leaf)

Plant Info
Also known as: Indian Mallow, Pie-marker
Family:Malvaceae (Mallow)
Life cycle:annual
  • Noxious Weed
  • Weedy
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flower] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] 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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Roman Zenka - West Albany
on: 2012-03-24 12:23:27

Several of these plants grew on a field left fallow and within a garden. The plants looked very interesting so we left them go to seed, which was apparently a mistake.

Posted by: Shelly - Wright County
on: 2012-04-17 18:59:22

I found the empty seed pod of this plant on the edges of my farm field. I'll watch for it and pull it.

Posted by: Jane - Hopkins, mn
on: 2012-08-24 13:19:36

Found this in the community garden at Hopkins Minnesota. Thought it was interesting so I looked it up. The plants are 5 feet all in places.

Posted by: Anna - Isanti/Chisago county
on: 2012-08-30 14:08:52

I have one growing in a pot somehow. I mixed some compost that I got from the North Branch compost site with other soils in a pot that I meant to grow lettuce in. The only plant that popped up was this thing. I didn't know what it was, but the hummingbirds perch on it as they feed from my garden, so I didn't have the heart to get rid of it. The seed pods are really interesting, but I'm removing them as they form. The flowers are pretty, but they're small and inconspicuous. Interestingly, I've been trying to germinate other Abutilon (the common houseplant type) with no luck this summer... then I get this. Oh well. But these are also growing in that compost heap like crazy in Chisago county... and I've seen them growing in Isanti county. The range should be updated/extended.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-08-30 19:18:32

Anna, the best way to get distribution maps updated is to collect a specimen and submit it to the Bell Herbarium, the keeper of plant records in Minnesota. Anyone can do it, you just need permission from the property owner to take a specimen, then press it flat and let it dry. You do need a special permit to collect on many state lands and should always check with the agency who manages other public lands before taking specimens. The Bell has info about collecting on their web site.

Posted by: Rick - Albert Lea
on: 2013-01-26 20:50:25

As I was released on July 9, 2011 after a three week stint in the hospital I found this plant raiding my veggie garden big time. I pulled all of it out, but wondered through last summer what it was. I just discovered it as I am tinkering with planting more native wildflowers (to Minnesota) this coming growing season in a few months. Thanks for such a vivid series of images and text. It's so very helpful and appreciated.

Posted by: Wendy - Minneapolis
on: 2013-08-20 10:32:17

This is the second year in a row I've found this in my garden in south Minneapolis. I left it last year because it was so interesting-looking, but now that I've identified it, out it goes!

Posted by: Lynda - Red River Moorhead east of Hjemkomst
on: 2014-08-09 18:31:26

I let this grow as I was restoring an old garden cite and was curious to see what would come up hoping for more perennials. I had also sown wildflower seeds and didn't want to pull anything that would flower. Well, finally some small flowers appeared so I was thrilled until I looked it up! It seems to be the only one in this area as I have scoured the banks along the Red. Guess I'll remove before it goes to seed! Yikes! Thanks again for all the time and effort you all have put in for us!

Posted by: Jane - Richfield Community Gardens
on: 2015-06-13 13:40:14

This is a problem at the Richfield Community Gardens.

Posted by: Lindsey - Champlin
on: 2015-07-06 19:08:31

I bought some soil from a guy near the cities. I planted a veg. garden and along with my veggies there is one super tall velvetleaf. It has no flowers on it but it is really tall. Glad I figured out what it is. One down, two more unknown plants to go!!

Posted by: Sheila Holtberg - Richfield
on: 2015-07-30 02:22:37

Sure is interesting. I will pluck it out tomorrow.

Posted by: Karen - Albertville
on: 2015-08-13 22:49:05

One started growing in pot with a jasmine I bought from a nursery. I let it go until it flowered so I could figure out what it was. The darn thing grew at least a foot over 4 days! I cut it off and will pull out the root when I re-pot the jasmine before bringing it inside in the Fall.

Posted by: Joanne - Richfield
on: 2015-09-07 17:05:36

I found a couple of these plants in one spot by the path around Richfield Lake. I am wondering if I should notify someone.

Posted by: Sue - Belle Creek Township, Goodhue County
on: 2015-10-05 11:48:14

I have found a few Velvetleaf plants scattered on our land. I just moved here so I've been trying to identify what I have growing. I believe our land was once a farm field.

Posted by: Rick - Beltrami North near Redlake
on: 2016-04-30 16:25:34

Actually, I found this originally outside my Greenhouse. Finding it interesting, especially the seed pod, I propagated it. (WRONG) I don't think I will have any trouble eradicating it. I suppose it came in a load of gravel. Usually the weeds I get are from gravel pits.

Posted by: Diane - Middle River. Marshall county
on: 2016-07-08 06:41:58

Just on the edge of the Agize wild life refuge and wet lands. Thanks again for the pictures and comments

Posted by: Marion - St. Louis Park
on: 2016-08-25 13:09:22

This plant was six feet tall in August and I thought it looked like a pumpkin plant. But out it goes today!

Posted by: Mj - South Minneapolis
on: 2016-08-27 15:00:43

As others on this page, I found it growing in my wildflower garden and thought the leaves were so lovely and interesting that I wanted to let it grow to see what it was. Now that the pods are out and the ID certain, out it goes before it seeds!

Posted by: Eddie B - Crosslake (Crow wing county)
on: 2016-09-21 00:03:09

I found these right along the edge of my parents house right where the rain drips down off the roof. Quite an odd place for any plant in that matter.

Posted by: Eleanor B - Rochester
on: 2017-10-03 21:29:29

There is a patch of this plant growing outside the north Salvation Army thrift store.in a garden area. I was intrigued with the seed pods but certainly won't be planting any seeds. It is a huge plant, drying off now. No doubt seeds have fallen.

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