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Abutilon theophrasti - Medik.                
Common Name China Jute, Velvetleaf, Butterprint Buttonweed Jute, China Mallow, Indian Velvet Leaf
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness Coming soon
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Cultivated ground and waste places in the Mediterranean[50].
Range Asia - tropical. Naturalised in S.E. Europe and the Mediterranean[50].
Edibility Rating  
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun

Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics       
 icon of manicon of flower
Abutilon theophrasti is a ANNUAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in leaf 10-May It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

Synonyms A. avicennae. Gaertn.
Abutilon theophrasti China Jute, Velvetleaf, Butterprint Buttonweed Jute, China Mallow, Indian Velvet Leaf

Abutilon theophrasti China Jute, Velvetleaf, Butterprint Buttonweed Jute, China Mallow, Indian Velvet Leaf
 Cultivated Beds;
Edible Uses                                         
Edible Parts: Fruit;  Oil;  Seed.
Edible Uses: Oil.

Seeds - raw or cooked. They can be eaten raw when they are under-ripe[179]. The ripe seed is dried and ground into a powder then used in soups, bread etc[177, 178]. It is washed first to remove any bitterness[179]. The seed contains about 17.4% protein, 16% fat, 33.8% carbohydrate, 4.4% ash[179]. Unripe fruit - raw[177]. This is really more of a seedpod[K].
Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Fresh weight)
  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 17.4g; Fat: 16g; Carbohydrate: 33.8g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 4.4g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ ]
  • Notes:
Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Astringent;  Demulcent;  Diuretic;  Emollient;  Laxative;  Ophthalmic;  Poultice;  Stomachic.

Ophthalmic. Used in the treatment of dysentery and opacity of the cornea[145, 178]. The leaves contain 0.01% rutin and are used as a demulcent[240]. A tea made from the dried leaves is used in the treatment of dysentery and fevers[222]. A poultice of the leaves is applied to ulcers[222]. The bark is astringent and diuretic[240]. A tea made from the dried root is used in the treatment of dysentery and urinary incontinence[222]. It is also used to treat fevers[240]. The seed is powdered and eaten in the treatment of dysentery, stomach-aches etc[222]. It is demulcent, diuretic, emollient, laxative and stomachic[218].
Other Uses
Fibre;  Oil;  Paper.

A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a jute substitute[123, 169]. It is coarse but flexible and strong[169, 171]. It is also used in rope-making[46, 61]. It takes dyes well[171]. The fibre is also used for making paper, the stems are harvested in the summer, the leaves removed and the stems steamed in order to remove the fibres[189]. The seeds contain about 19% of a semi-drying oil[240].
Cultivation details                                         
Requires full sun or part day shade and a fertile well-drained soil[200]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5 to 8.2. This species is cultivated for its fibre in China and Russia where it succeeds as far north as latitude 56°n in W. Siberia[61, 123]. It is hardier and more disease-resistant than Jute (Corchorus spp.)[123]. Introduced to N. America in the eighteenth century, it has become a pestilential weed in many parts of the country[207]. Special Features:Invasive.
Seed - sow early April in a greenhouse. Germination should take place within 2 - 3 weeks. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in May or June, after the last expected frosts. An outdoor sowing in April to early May in situ could also be tried, especially in those areas with warm summers.
Related Plants                                         
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Abutilon megapotamicumTrailing Abutilon40
Abutilon ochsenii 30
Abutilon pictumAbutilon, Parlour Maple, Flowering Maple, Spotted30
Abutilon purpurascens 20
Abutilon species 30
Abutilon vitifolium 30
Abutilon x hybridumChinese Lantern, Flowering Maple30
Abutilon x milleriTrailing Abutilon30
Abutilon x suntense 30
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Expert comment                                         
Botanical References                                         
Links / References                                         

  [K] Ken Fern Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[46]Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants.
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.
[50]? Flora Europaea
An immense work in 6 volumes (including the index). The standard reference flora for europe, it is very terse though and with very little extra information. Not for the casual reader.
[61]Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man.
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.
[123]? Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th edition.
It contains a few things of interest to the plant project.
[145]Singh. Dr. G. and Kachroo. Prof. Dr. P. Forest Flora of Srinagar.
A good flora of the western Himalayas but poorly illustrated. Some information on plant uses.
[169]Buchanan. R. A Weavers Garden.
Covers all aspects of growing your own clothes, from fibre plants to dyes.
[171]Hill. A. F. Economic Botany.
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover.
[177]Kunkel. G. Plants for Human Consumption.
An excellent book for the dedicated. A comprehensive listing of latin names with a brief list of edible parts.
[178]Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica.
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.
[179]Reid. B. E. Famine Foods of the Chiu-Huang Pen-ts'ao.
A translation of an ancient Chinese book on edible wild foods. Fascinating.
[189]Bell. L. A. Plant Fibres for Papermaking.
A good practical section on how to make paper on a small scale plus details of about 75 species (quite a few of them tropical) that can be used.
[200]Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992.
Excellent and very comprehensive, though it contains a number of silly mistakes. Readable yet also very detailed.
[207]Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers.
A nice read, lots of information on plant uses.
[218]Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.
[222]Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America.
A concise book dealing with almost 500 species. A line drawing of each plant is included plus colour photographs of about 100 species. Very good as a field guide, it only gives brief details about the plants medicinal properties.
[240]Chopra. R. N., Nayar. S. L. and Chopra. I. C. Glossary of Indian Medicinal Plants (Including the Supplement).
Very terse details of medicinal uses of plants with a wide range of references and details of research into the plants chemistry. Not for the casual reader.

Readers comment                                         
Elizabeth H.
Geoffrey Tolle Sun Aug 8 14:56:01 2004
This plant is also naturalized in North America.
Elizabeth H.
Charles Paradise Mon Aug 6 2007
I thought when I pulled one this week it pulled out easier than any other plant I'd ever pulled. It pulled even easier than Buckwheat. So, I thought, this would be a good cover crop. Problem is its seed can remain viable for more than 50 years, so I guess this wouldn't be such a good idea. Leaves remarkably soft, central stem remarkably hard. Would be interesting to know how well the stems decompose in compost, and how one strips fiber from the stems. Under survival conditions I would expect the fiber could be quite useful in a temperate garden. Perhaps fiber could be stripped in the garden and used for binding other plants in the garden?
Noah F.
Abutilon theophrasti has many other synonyms (in main comment). Also, the leaves are edible. Aug 26 2011 12:00AM
"Velvetleaf [Abutilon Theophrasti] has been grown in China since around 2000 BCE for its strong, jute-like fibre. The leaves are edible, stir-fried or in omelette. The seeds are eaten in China and Kashmir." --from Wikipedia-- So, the LEAVES are edible too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abutilon_theophrasti
Cat M.
From "Determining the Quality of Backyard Eggs" by J.D. Belanger "Rubbery yolks can be traced to freezing or severe chilling of fresh eggs, but also to crude cottonseed oil or velvetleaf seed in the feed. The yolks of eggs of free-range hens consuming velvetleaf seeds appear normal at first, but become rubbery, viscous and pasty after even a brief period of cold storage. The culprit has been traced to cyclopropenoid compounds, which tend to increase the saturated fat in eggs, tissue and milk. (Velvet weed, or velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti, introduced from Asia in the mid 1700s as a potential fiber crop, has become a major and widespread invasive weed, particularly in corn and soybean fields. Be aware that the seeds are often found in corn screenings.)" Apr 18 2014 12:00AM
Backyard Poultry
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