Abutilon theophrasti (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.

Posted by: Jennifer Turnquist - Arden Hills
on: 2018-06-29 22:00:00

I think several of these are growing along the entrance road to MSP Terminal 1.

Posted by: Kirsten Mebust - South Minneapolis, Hennepin County
on: 2018-07-17 12:34:35

Just pulled two of these out of the boulevard and sidewalk this morning (yes, growing in the sidewalk crack, didn't get the root) in south Minneapolis. They were young but had flowers and a couple of pods each.

Posted by: Joan - blaine
on: 2018-07-17 19:10:23

I have tons of it popping up in every garden! It is a pretty plant so I have let it grow where it sprouts for the most part, but I have been collecting and disposing of the seed heads to stop the spread.

Posted by: Ed kelcher - Scott co
on: 2018-07-18 09:21:40

I have a garden about 3/4 acre.several years ago I had my farmer neighbor drop off a load of manure and spread it around.i noticed thousands of small stout weeds coming up over the summer.when fall came they all went to seed.the following year same thing.i pulled them out as they came up but they always got ahead of me.im now trying to weed wack them several times a year so none flower.if I get every one every year should I expect 45 years of wacking until there are no more seeds to germinate.the garden is organic and I don't use herbicides.

Posted by: David L Stevens - Otsego
on: 2018-08-19 04:49:15

I've been looking for days for the identification of this plant. There are several that came up beside my house. I wanted to ID it before I pulled it out.

Posted by: Paul Harcey - near Lanesboro, Fillmore County
on: 2018-08-21 12:47:57

found it near a dry stream bed, water runs in wetter times and does flood.

Posted by: Mary - Minneapolis
on: 2018-09-15 13:56:55

Found in my raised bed garden in South Minneapolis. I'm guessing it came from bagged compost I purchased.

Posted by: Carole
on: 2018-09-20 11:10:51

Anoka County, south of I-35W / I-35E split. In the triangle formed by these 2 highways; growing on spoil piles.

Posted by: Brandie Hanson - Bloomington
on: 2019-06-06 00:40:40

I have never seen this plant before when growing up in Douglas County were farm crops were often corn crops. However last year, I bought a 99 cent seed packet of sweet corn. I don't remember what brand but it was a very shady. (As in, I also bought a packet of Kohlrabi seeds that ended up being 90% baby broccoli seeds) .. Also I know it was in with the corn packets because it grew right in my rows of corn. It was not in my garden the year before either. Anyway, I mistook them as sprouts of a melon plant at first. Obviously when it grew upward like a corn stalk did I realize it was something else. My phone app identified it, but by then it had gone to seed. There's some coming up again in my garden but now that I know what it is, I'll be sure to pull all of them before it can spread any further. Interesting looking plant, very soft leaves and it has an interesting smell to it too.

Posted by: Tiffany - VICTORIA
on: 2019-07-20 21:21:50

I planted a vegetable garden this year and we used organic compost that we purchased from the local home depot. We have about 15 of these plants growing around the garden box. I wasnt sure what it was at first, I thought it was one of the several vegetables we planted. I looked it up and now that I know what it is I will be doing what I can to get rid of it. The plants were never there before this summer, I am thinking they were in the compost. Hopefully I can get rid of them before they spread.

Posted by: nagol - Chaska
on: 2019-08-18 07:00:00

Neighbor ask me to identify for her, she thought it was attractive. We were impressed with the oversized leaf and blossoms. Thanks to this excellent site, discovered we should not encourage Its growth. I will advise her to pull it out.

Posted by: LuAnne - Savage
on: 2019-08-18 10:47:47

These popped up in my raised bed I guessing either from "organic Valley" compost bought at Home Depot in Shakopee or a snap-dragon seed packet from the same store. The snapdragons never germinated.

Posted by: Jan Rogers - Oakdale
on: 2019-08-20 20:50:27

This popped up in my garden area containing 3 peonies, a clematis and a miniature rose. No clue what it was until someone else was inquiring.

Posted by: Laura - Richfield
on: 2019-09-08 22:16:13

Had two of these in the raised garden bed this year, very pretty flowers - too bad they're invasive. Seeds likely came in with soil brought in from St. Peter/Mankato, but I've also seen them growing around the neighborhood in construction areas.

Posted by: Betty - Silver Bay, Lake County
on: 2019-09-09 17:08:48

In Sychar Lutheran Church's Edison Blvd side. This spring I dug up the existing over-grown bed and replanted it. This was a volunteer and I let it grow because it looked interesting. I'll pull it because it is too tall for the site.

Posted by: Rhyan Schicker - South central Lac qui Parle county
on: 2019-09-26 10:21:32

Found in a fallow field that is being converted to clover and trees. Many plants present.

Posted by: Teri Keller - In my backyard garden in St. Paul/Maplewood
on: 2019-09-30 20:23:21

I ordered plants from Direct Gardening. They sent me two of these shoots to plant that came in a "butterfly and hummingbird bundle along with my ordered Hollyhocks. I planted this in back of my gorgeous hydrangea thinking they were more hollyhocks and it grew like a beanstalk with very tiny yellow flowers. My hydrangea started dying. The seed pods are MANY and I sent them an email to ask for help in learning what it was. I can see why my hydrangea is not feeling it. After reading this -I could just die.

Posted by: Susan Stanich - Fond du Lac in far west Duluth
on: 2020-08-23 17:06:54

Neither MN nor WS identifies this as a noxious plant, but it's truly horrible. Found one in my newly formed raised bed in June, and another in my neighbor's. And then more. A former Illinois farmer identified them as serious invasives (as bad as what you show here).We had used a big-box manure compost. [Organic Valley comp. from Menards.] Then where a nearby home had been removed and site replanting included soil and a mesh, ots of them popped up - just in that meshed rectangle. All are now removed and the areas are being watched, because the darn things keep popping up as though it's spring. Just pulled a young one Aug. 22.

Posted by: Karen B - Lakeville
on: 2020-08-28 18:51:59

Found two just coming into bloom among zinnias by birdbath. Zinnias not bothered by them. After reading this site, promptly pulled both. Thank you for this site and commenters' input. Valuable and helpful.

Posted by: Lorna - Crookston
on: 2020-09-02 20:51:53

I made up a new flower bed(raised up a little) I didn't till up the ground, just laid down the fabric and put top soil and some garden soil,(bought from Wal mart) I had up 6 of these things popping up, I finally pulled all but one, its starting to show some flowers, and now that I know what it is, tomorrow it will come out. Thank you.

Posted by: Jennifer - Northern Anoka County
on: 2020-09-04 20:42:59

I have quite a few of these growing in a sunflower bed. Did not come with the sunflower seeds. Wondering if they came with the black dirt we put in that bed (local company.)

Posted by: D Rebers - Minnetonka
on: 2020-09-20 23:53:50

They are currently growing and going to seed in the open areas of a new housing development near Ridgedale. I like the branch shape with the seed pods. So nasty though, considering the seeds can survive 50+ years.

Posted by: Ken - S. MINNEAPOLIS
on: 2021-06-14 02:08:14

These are filling in a (formerly grass) boulevard tear-out which was replaced with purchased soil (leitners), home compost (no weeds are composted), and then seeded with "pollinator mix" and "hummingbirds and butterflies mix" which were giveaways. The attempted wildflower garden also has ample ragweed and giant ragweed ID'd tonight with technology. I suspect the purchased soil, but could be the seed mixes too. It is nowhere else, has not yet flowered, and will be pulled tomorrow.

Posted by: April Meyer - Breckenridge
on: 2021-07-22 13:32:57

I've never seen these plants in my yard before and this year I planted a box of wildflower mix from the Dollar tree and they are everywhere

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-07-22 19:37:37

April, beware of "wildflower" seed mixes you see in box stores and even some nurseries. Unless they come from a reputable native plant vendor they'll more likely be full of non-native weeds rather than wildflowers.

Posted by: Gayle - Cottonwood County
on: 2021-07-29 18:59:51

I have two of these plants, in two different places, growing on my property. I've been here for ten years and have never seen this plant before. I did a web search for "weed with large heart-shaped leaves" and got a picture with a name. Was able to use this website to verify identification. They are just getting ready to bloom so I am going to avert disaster and get them pulled. Today. I am so thankful for this website!

Posted by: Cornelia - St.Paul
on: 2021-08-17 17:10:00

It looks like they are distributing widely in the Twin Cities... I have several of these plants in the garden we recently moved to. I honestly love the feel of the velvety heart shaped leaves and the intriguing flower/seed combinations. It looks very nice with additional morning glories growing over it and adding their heart shaped leaves... The deer like to eat it. I'll keep pulling what tries to spread too much - they do pop up aon several spots in the garden. Thanks much for this helpful post to identify the mystery!

Posted by: anonymous - Marble
on: 2021-09-08 17:58:16

this popped up beside my basement after having sand hauled in

Posted by: Greg Cummines - Waconia
on: 2022-07-03 17:53:48

I thought this was Okra until I looked it up. I have about 6 of these growing on my 5 acre hobby farm throughout, so not too many.

Posted by: Bernice Sonterre - Coon Rapids
on: 2022-08-05 16:38:43

My daughter found a round clump of "something" interesting - sort of looked like bugs but I thought probably seeds of some sort. I planted a few in flower box on the patio and one plant came up. I transplanted it along the fence in back yard and now it is 3-4 ' tall and blossoming. As a plant lover, I thought the find was wonderful but guess I will not be letting it go to seed.

Posted by: Brad - Highland Village- Saint Paul
on: 2022-08-17 20:19:32

Found a robust velvet leaf growing next to my garage in the alley. It?s time to cut it down and send it out with the garbage.

Posted by: Sue - Apple Valley
on: 2022-08-22 18:34:43

This plant popped up randomly in my raised bed lettuce garden. I didn't pull it when it was small because it was distinct and I was curious. Now it's 6' tall. Oops! Guessing it came from purchased organic compost, or maybe from my neighbor's pollinator mix garden, via wind or a critter.

Posted by: Curtis - Eden Prairie
on: 2022-09-08 15:39:20

I have one of these that came up in my yard. It is really quite pretty, and the leaves do have a velvet texture. But I will pull it. Based on the pictures of the seed pods, I realize I have also seen these in a vacant lot near the Flying Cloud airport. I didn't know what they were at the time.

Posted by: Scott - Brooklyn Park
on: 2023-07-06 20:10:08

We've had six plants quickly make their presence known in our bell pepper and onion box. Now that we know what they are they will be destroyed.

Posted by: Kelsey - Woodbury, MN
on: 2023-07-25 20:12:42

I used Google lens to identify this plant in my garden tonight. I've got 4 of them nearly 5 feet tall, and they're starting to bud flowers! After reading other comments here, I suspect they came from a Dollar Tree wildflower seed mix. Lesson learned!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2023-07-26 05:12:29

Kelsey, the lesson learned should be to not buy "wildflower" seed mixes except from a reputable native plant vendor, otherwise you'll get a packet full of weeds. Calling them "wildflowers" just because they might be found in the wild is misleading at best.

Posted by: Kelsey - Woodbury
on: 2023-07-28 10:03:07

K Chayka, that's exactly what I meant when I said "lesson learned"--I'll never buy Dollar Tree seeds ever again after learning from this message board that they're not native seeds, and most likely invasive weeds that are harmful to our local environment. I'm happy to have stumbled upon this resource as a result of my Google lens search of that darn weed! :)

Posted by: Victoria Lambert - St. Louis Park
on: 2023-08-01 13:33:30

I noticed this plant growing at the edge of my vegetable garden this summer, and had no idea what it was, so I let it grow out of curiosity. The crown shaped buds and flowers have recently appeared...yikes, I'll go out and pull it up before it spreads those seeds!!

Posted by: Suzanne Ammerman - Brook park mn
on: 2023-08-01 21:20:02

Just started growing in my pig pasture the birds hid in it with chicks i just found out what it was now , had no idea where it came from or what it was. Stays around pond area in pig pen.

Posted by: Debra - 3 miles north of Winthrop MN
on: 2023-08-27 17:42:23

Been watching this plant grow. Thought it was a sunflower or other bird seed plant as it is by the bird feeders area. I have never seen this before so I was surprised to find out it is so common.

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