Seed of the Week: Velvet Leaf

Our heart-shaped mystery seeds from last week were from a plant called velvet leaf or Indian mallow, Abutilon theophrasti.


Perhaps if I had shown you this mature seed head, it might have been easier to identify.


Velvet leaf gets its common name from the fuzzy appearance of its leaves.


The short-lived flowers are yellow-orange in color (public domain photograph)


Originally from China, velvet leaf is considered to be an invasive weed in agricultural fields in North America.

Ours was a present from the birds, as it showed up where we had previously scattered birdseed. Fortunately, it does not seem to thrive in our heat.

Have you seen velvet leaf before? It has other common names. What do you call it?


Mystery Seed of the Week is taking a short break. Next Tuesday I’m going to have some children’s books about seeds.


  1. sara

    Sorry to hear you’re taking time off; Seed of the Week is a favorite of mine!

  2. Roberta


    I appreciate you letting me know. Sometimes it is hard to gather photographs of all the life stages of a plant so I have material for both mystery seed and seed of the week posts. Don’t worry, mystery seed will be back in two weeks.

  3. Anna

    Since your post, I’ve noticed this plant in Austin tx. It is one of many invasive species that have taken over a field that was bulldozed about 2 years ago. I thought it was desert globe mallow which I remember seeing as a kid in AZ. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Roberta

    The flowers in particular are very similar to desert mallow. The seed heads show a resemblance, too.

  5. Mary

    Im glad you all posted these pictures.. I have been trying to find what has been growing in my flower pot for some time now. I’m in CA and all of a sudden this started to sprout where another plant was in my pot.. after 2 months or so it is now about 3 feet from the top of the pot and still growing in full sun. I think I over watered it lately cause a couple leaves have turned yellow. So all it is, is a big tall weed? That is disappointing because I do not have a green thumb lately as all my stuff is either dying or died or doesn’t look so good. Our weather here has been iffy tho. Right now its pouring. What happened to our indian summer? Oh well, its the only green happy plant in my garden. I read it was a destroyer weed so… Should I get rid of it or keep it? Please help.. Thank you 🙂

  6. Roberta

    Dear Mary,

    I looked up what you local UC IPM recommendations were, and even if you don’t live next to agricultural lands, it says that velvetleaf can harbor diseases that can spread to other plants. It also says the seeds can remain in the soil for 50 years! If you are absolutely sure that is what your plant is, I wouldn’t encourage it.

    Hope you find some plants that work for you. Calfora shows a couple of related mallows that are native to CA. Maybe you could try one of those?

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