Identification & Biology
Alias' : Velvetweed, elephant ear, Indian-mallow
Latin Name : Abutilon theophrasti
Category : Terrestrial Plants
Description :
  • Annual forb that grows from 0.3 to 2.4 m tall 
  • Stems and leave are covered with dense hairs and are soft to the touch 
  • Leaves are alternate, broadly heart-shaped, pointed at the end and 7-20 cm wide. 
  • Flowers have five petals that are fused at the base, yellow to orange in color 
  • Slender taproot with fibrous branches 
  • Seeds are grey-brown and contained in a circular capsule of 12 to 15 seedpods with a ring of prickles around the upper edge 


Velvetleaf was originally introduced to North America in the mid 1700s as a potential fibre crop. It reproduces by seed; one plant can produce up to 17,000 seeds and seeds can remain viable in the soil for 50 to 60 years. Seeds germinate throughout the growing season. Seedlings are fast-growing and emerge at variable times. Flowering begins in late June and continues through to October.  

Prior to blooming, velvetleaf may be confused with the common sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus).  The leaves of velvetleaf are much rounder and they emit a foul odour when crushed. 

Look Alikes

Native to Asia, velvetleaf is typically found in full sun and fertile soils consisting of loam of clay-loam. It commonly invades orchards, vineyards, crop fields, nursery fields, gardens, roadsides and other disturbed areas. In the Okanagan, velvetleaf was previous confirmed in the Oliver area; however, it has not been detected for over a decade. At this time there is no confirmed presence in BC. 

Impact & Risks
  • Velvetleaf is a serious problem in croplands in North America. It outcompetes crop species for nutrients, water, and light, significantly reducing crop yields.  
  • It can harbour diseases and pests of corn, cotton, soybeans, and other crops. 
Prevention & Mitigation

Velvetleaf is a Provincially Prohibited Species and sightings should be reported via the BC Report Invasives phone app or online. For more information, go to:

The most effective way to ensure that your lands do not become infested with velvetleaf is by prevention. Here are some recommendations to prevent invasion: 

  • Maintain your crops and natural lands in a healthy, vigorous condition to ensure a competitive plant community.  
  • Regularly patrol your property for velvetleaf plants and immediately control or remove infestations before seed set.  
  • Cooperate with adjacent landowners and encourage them to prevent velvetleaf spread. 
  • Immediately re-vegetate disturbed, bare soils with a suitable seed mixture that provides dense, early colonization to prevent weed invasion.  
  • Do not move contaminated soils to a new area.  
  • Clean equipment, vehicles, and footwear before leaving an infested area. 
Treatment & Disposal
  • Small infestations can be hand-pulled or dug out.  
  • Plants can be cut or mowed after flowering but before seed-set.  
  • All plant material should be carefully bagged and disposed of at a landfill.  
  • Chemical control is also an option. If applying herbicides, read the label for full use and precautionary instructions.  
  • For further information on the selection and application of chemicals to protect your crop, contact AgriService BC at 1-888-221-7141 or email
  • Monitor the site for several years after treatment.  
  • There are currently no biocontrol agents (natural insect enemies) available for velvetleaf in B.C. 
Okanagan Distribution

Priority Level Definitions

Watch For - Poses a significant threat (very high risk) and does NOT presently occur in the region OR is relatively new to the region and is very limited in extent.
High - High risk/impact; limited population with significant potential to spread in the region.
Medium - Medium risk/impact; limited distribution – broader population distribution with potential to spread further in a region.
Low - Low risk/impact; may be widespread or not, may be of concern in specific situations with certain high values – e.g. specific agriculture crops. Some species may be treated primarily with biological control agents.