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Velvetleaf,Abutilon theophrasti (malvaceae), history and economic impact in the United States


Velvetleaf,Abutilon theophrasti, a native of China, was originally introduced into the New World before 1750 as a potential fiber crop for the American colonies. Initial introductions may have come from England because of similar interests in the development of fiber crops. Commercial fiber production from velvetleaf was attempted by U.S. farmers for more than a century. The latest known attempts were made in the latter part of the 19th century in Illinois and New York. Velvetleaf never competed well with hemp, at least partly due to a lack of proper machinery for fiber processing. These early experimental plantings were apparently the source of velvetleaf as a weed in row crops. One velvetleaf plant is capable of producing as many as 8,000 seeds, and viability may extend beyond 50 yr. The plant is well adapted to our upper Midwest where maize (Zea mays) and soybeans (Glycine max) are the major row crops. The reservoir of velvetleaf seed in the soil is increasing. The current annual economic loss due to velvetleaf in maize and soybeans is estimated to be approximately $343 million per year.

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Spencer, N.R. Velvetleaf,Abutilon theophrasti (malvaceae), history and economic impact in the United States. Econ Bot 38, 407–416 (1984).

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  • Economic Botany
  • Hemp
  • Control Cost
  • Kenaf
  • Fiber Plant