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Record Number


PROSEA Handbook Number

17: Fibre plants


Abutilon theophrasti Medik.




Abutilon avicennae Gaertner, Sida abutilon L.

Vernacular Names

China jute, Tientsin jute, Indian mallow (En). Velvetleaf (Am).


Probably native to the Mediterranean or to a wider area including temperate Asian and European countries. Cultivated and sometimes naturalized in Europe, Asia, America and Australia. In Malesia only recorded in Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Sumbawa and Sulawesi).


The bast fibre is made into sacks, coarse cloth, rugs, twine, rope, matting, slippers and fishing nets, either alone or blended with jute or kenaf. China jute is also used in paper making and for caulking. It does not seem to be used as a fibre plant in South-East Asia. The seeds are eaten, e.g. in China and Kashmir.


An annual herb, up to about 1 m tall in Malesia, elsewhere up to 3—6 m tall. Leaves simple, often slightly 3-lobed, spirally arranged; stipules linear to filiform, about 8 mm long; petiole 0.5—30 cm long; blade orbicular, 1.5—18 cm in diameter, base deeply cordate, margin irregularly crenate to dentate, apex long-narrowly acuminate, 7—11-veined. Flowers solitary, axillary or by development of an accessory bud in few-flowered racemes; calyx campanulate, 5-fid, about 13 mm in diameter; corolla yellow, about 2 cm in diameter, petals widely obovate or orbicular; staminal column 2—3 mm long. Fruit a schizocarp, mericarps 10—16, 11 mm x 6 mm, at apex with 2 beaks. Seed obliquely reniform, about 3.5 mm across, dark brown, puberulent. Abutilon theophrasti is generally grown in areas with a mean temperature of 22—25°C during the growing season, and a monthly rainfall of 140—210 mm in this period. It requires moist alluvial soils or friable loams. The main production areas are at higher latitudes. In Malesia, China jute is found in areas with a distinct dry season or (in Sumatra) at high altitude. Premature flowering has been recorded in Taiwan at 23°N, and it is probably, like many other Malvaceae, a short-day plant. The main producers are China and the former Soviet Union. In China the plants are harvested at full flowering. The fibre is extracted by retting followed by hackling. The ultimate fibres are 2.5—4.5 mm long and about 18—19 µm wide. On a dry matter basis seeds in the United States contained 15.3% oil and 23.1% protein. The main fatty acids of the seed oil are linoleic acid (60.9%), palmitic acid (12.8%) and oleic acid (14.8%). China jute is an important weed of cotton, maize, sorghum and soya bean in the United States.
Abutilon grandifolium (Willd.) Sweet (synonym: Sida grandifolia Willd.) is native to South America and cultivated in the tropics as an ornamental or fibre; it seems to be grown sometimes in Java (Indonesia) and Luzon (the Philippines), but it is not clear for which purpose. Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet is sometimes cultivated as a fibre plant, e.g. in India and East Africa; its primary use in South-East Asia is medicinal.

Selected Sources

[31]Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, 1985. The wealth of India: a dictionary of Indian raw materials and industrial products. Revised edition. Vol. 1. Publications and Information Directorate, New Delhi, India. 513.
[42]Dempsey, J.M., 1975. Fiber crops. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, United States. pp. 203—304.
[66]Hanelt, P. & Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (Editors), 2001. Mansfeld's encyclopedia of agricultural and horticultural crops (except ornamentals). 1st English edition. 6 volumes. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Germany. 3645 pp.
[94]Kirby, R.H., 1963. Vegetable fibres: botany, cultivation and utilization. Leonard Hill, London, United Kingdom & Interscience Publishers, New York, United States. 464 pp.
[144]Rehm, S. & Espig, G., 1991. The cultivated plants of the tropics and subtropics: cultivation, economic value, utilization. Verlag Josef Margraf, Weikersheim, Germany. pp. 338—343.
[164]Spencer, N.R., 1984. Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti (Malvaceae), history and economic impact in the United States. Economic Botany 38: 407—416.
[189]van Borssum Waalkes, J., 1966. Malesian Malvaceae revised. Blumea 14(1): 1—213.
[191]van Valkenburg, J.L.C.H. & Bunyapraphatsara, N., 2001. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 12(2). Medicinal and poisonous plants 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands. 782 pp.
[197]Wiersema, J.H. & León, B., 1999. World economic plants. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, United States. 749 pp.


M. Brink, P.C.M. Jansen & C.H. Bosch

Correct Citation of this Article

Brink, M., Jansen, P.C.M. & Bosch, C.H., 2003. Abutilon theophrasti Medik.. In: Brink, M and Escobin, R.P. (Editors): Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 17: Fibre plants. PROSEA Foundation, Bogor, Indonesia. Database record:

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