Abutilon theophrasti  • Class B

Family Name: Malvaceae family  (mal-VAY-see-ee)
Common: The Mallow family
Genus: Abutilon (a-BEW-tih-lon)
Meaning: From the Arabic word for a mallow-like plant
Species: theophrasti (thee-oh-FRAS-tee)
Meaning: Named for Theophrastos, a 3rd century Greek philosopher and botanist

The entire plant is velvety and soft and is completely covered with short fine hairs. It can reach heights of 3 to 8 feet.

Its alternate heart shaped leaves are usually 2 to 5 inches wide at the base and a slender leaf stem supports each leaf.

Flowers are yellow to yellow-orange and about 3/4 of an inch wide with 5 sepals and 5 petals per flower. Flowers are solitary, or in small clusters, and are on short stalks in upper leaf axils.  

 Why Is it a Noxious Weed?

It outcompetes desirable vegetation and cultivated plants.  It is difficult to control due to its persistent seed bank, with seeds remaining viable for up to 50 or 60 years.  Velvetleaf is self compatible, so a single plant can pollinate itself and start a new infestation.  

Where Does it Grow?

Velvetleaf is found in waste areas, roadsides, vacant lots, fence rows, and around farmsteads, in cultivated fields and gardens. 


New flowers appear every 2 days and the flower is usually fertilized the day it opens, seeds mature in 17 to 22 days after pollination.

In the 1980's hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on control of this plant in the U.S. because of the economic impact to crop production losses.   

Control Options:
  • Fortunately for Washington, Velvetleaf is not very widespread, and can be easily controlled when it is still in small numbers and plants are young, before flower production. This annual plant is no trouble to simply pull out, roots and all. Plant materials should be bagged up and disposed of in the garbage, since the seeds will ripen after the plant is pulled.
  • Prevention of a seed bank is essential for controlling Velvetleaf. Above all else, prevent plants from going to seed. 

  • Mowing is also an effective strategy, if mowed prior to seed production. 

  • 2, 4 D, plus Dicamba is a good post emergent selective herbicide for control of Velvetleaf. It should be applied while the plant is actively growing and before seed production. 

  • When using herbicides, always read and follow all label instructions and obey all label precautions. (Note: pesticide product registration is renewed annually and product names and formulations may vary from year to year.) 

More Information:

 Download our Flyer or visit Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board Here. Photo by Leo Michels


More Pictures: