Velvetleaf Abutilon theophrasti
IDENTIFICATION — Velvetleaf, also called “Indian mallow” or “butter print,” was introduced to North America from southern Asia in the 1700s — now you’ll find it in all of the continental United States and well into Canada. This annual may grow 7 ft. tall or more. The stems and 2- to 6-in.-long heart-shaped leaves are covered with fine hairs. When you crush the leaves, they give off an unpleasant odor. Velvetleaf is so tall, with such large leaves, it shades out smaller plants around it. And the aggressive roots steal moisture and nutrients from neighbors.
From July to October, five-petaled yellow-orange flowers bloom. They’re replaced by the unique, teacup-shaped seedpods you see in the illustration. One plant is able to produce thousands of seeds that can remain viable for more than 50 years.
FAVORITE CONDITIONS — Full sun is where you’ll usually find velvetleaf growing, but it’ll grow in part shade, too. Most often found in regularly cultivated areas like vegetable gardens, it’s also at home in perennial beds, along roads and in waste areas.
CONTROL — The simplest control is to hoe small seedlings out. It’s easy to pull young velvetleaf plants. A taproot makes it harder to pull a mature velvetleaf, but you can just cut these big plants off at the soil line and they won’t sprout again. No matter how you get rid of it, since this weed spreads by seed, make sure to remove it before any seeds ripen.
Most broadleaf herbicides will also kill velvetleaf. But you’ll need to apply it several times over the growing season because seeds germinate all summer. That means you’ll find seedlings from spring well into fall.