Abutilon theophrasti

Velvet leaf

Family: Malvaceae

Origin: Asia

Close up of a cluster of velvet leaf.
Velvet leaf is an unwanted organism across all of New Zealand that should be reported to Auckland Council if seen.

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • Unwanted organism

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Erect annual herb < 2.5 m tall. Stems are hairy and much branched in upper section. Leaves are large, alternate, heart-shaped, hairy and soft.

Flowers are yellow and borne in January – February. Seed pods are borne in cup-shaped circular clusters.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell velvet leaf. As velvet leaf is an Unwanted Organism, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.


Crops, gardens, wasteland, fence lines, roadsides.


Seeds dispersed by gravity. Human-mediated dispersal through movement of contaminated soil, crop seeds, crops, farming machinery and feed grain.

Impact on environment

Reduces crop yield. Allelopathic.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Other herbicides are available for selective use in pasture and crops. Contact Auckland Council for more information.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig or pull out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: Seeds.

Disposal options: Cover seeds with a bag before pulling out to contain seeds or remove to landfill.


Biocontrol is currently not available for this species.

Community agrichemical control recommendations

Basic Growsafe certified: Foliar spray with 100ml glyphosate green per 10L of water.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

A cluster of velvet leaf growing in a field.
Velvet leaf invades horticultural land that has been cultivated and the soil exposed.
Velvet Leaf plant with seed pods growing in maize.
It is a small herb that can grow up to 2.5m tall.
A few Velvet Leaf plants growing in maize.
Once the flowers are pollinated, they form into circular clusters full of black seed.
Looking across the top of a maize field infested with Velvet Groundsel.
Velvet leaf seeds are spread by gravity and can stay viable for a long time. If present in a crop, seeds can remain in the soil and germinate the following year when the soil is cultivated.
Velvet leaf growing in a corn field.
Yellow flowers grow in late summer are pollinated by insects. Velvet leaf can spread from crops to roadsides, fence lines and waste lands.