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Abutilon, A-Z of plant genera {part 2.}

Updated on September 15, 2015




This is the second in the series A-Z of plant genera, the genus Abelia being reviewed in part 1. The genus Abies has been detailed in my article A Study of Trees part 21 { }.. here we look at the genus Abuliton of the Mallow family Malvaceae. It is a large genus of evergreen to semi-evergreen shrubs,perennials and annuals grown for their flowers and foliage. Many,as we shall see, are popular garden species.

The genus name is a Latin version of an Arabic word. Many of the cultivars are frost to frost tender.They need full sun or partial shade,depending on the species, and well drained fertile soil. If they are grown in containers they will need to be watered freely when in full growth,but less so at other times.

In the growing season young plants may need tip pruning to promote bushy growth.Mature specimens may have the previous summer's growth cut back hard annually in spring.the loose growing species need to be tied to a support if necessary.They can be propagated by semi-ripe cuttings in the summer or by seed in the spring.

Abutilon fruticosum


Abutilon fruticosum.

Abutilon fruticosum is known by several common names such as Texas Indian Mallow,Pelotazo and Sweet Indian Mallow. It is a native of south central United States and Northern Mexico. It is also a Native of South Africa and southern western Asia.

The species is a perennial herb/small shrub that may attain the height of six feet but is generally around three feet in height.the leaves are arranged alternately and are up to four inches long. They are thick and covered in hairs,giving the foliage a grey hue. The orange -yellow flowers are about an inch wide and appear from June to October . They grow in shrub land,woodland,and on prairies.It also grows on cliff slopes and limestone outcrops.

Animals such as deer feed on the foliage ,the flowers attract butterflies. Several species of larvae of the butterflies feed on the foliage.The plant is drought tolerant.

Abutilon darwinii


Abutilon grandiflroum

Taken at Maui,Waihee
Taken at Maui,Waihee | Source

Abutilon darwinii and Abutilon grandiflorum

Abutilon darwinii is a popular ornamental plant in hot regions with a humid climate. It is a shrub of about six to seven feet tall that produces pink flowers.It is a native to Brazil.

Abutilon grandiflorum,commonly referred to as the Hairy Indian Mallow,is a native to South America,but has been introduced to many other countries of the world including tropical Africa,the Canary islands and Hawaii. As the scientific name,grandiflorum,suggests the flowers are larger than those of the typical species.

It is an annual or biennial small herbaceous shrub. The stems are grey-green to olive,velvety in texture and branched from the base. The foliage is arranged alternatively,and are broadly ovate-or cordate,they are green slightly paler below. The margins are coarsely toothed. The flowers are produced on long stalks and are over one inch wide. the flowers are produced on long stalks and are yellow.The fruit is depressed and rounded and hairy. The flower often remains closed on cloudy days,but open immediately the sun appears.

They occur in gravelly soils in dry areas of shrub,along river banks and roadsides.

Abutilon theophrasti


Abutilon theophrasti


Abutilon theophrasti

Abutlion theophrasti is commonly known as 'Buttonweed' and is an annual plant native to southern Asia and the specific name alludes to the Greek botanist/philosopher,Theophratus.It attains the height of six feet or more.The foliage is heart shaped with a velvety texture,hence one of its common names of Velvet leaf, and are six inches broad. The flowers are Yellow or orange about one and a half inches in diameter and these are succeeded by button shaped fruit capsules that contain the seed.The flowers a have a fruity aroma.

It is classed as a weed,primarily in crops especially corn fields,but may also be encountered on roadsides and in gardens. It prefers rich cultivated soils. it has long been grown in China. The leaves are edible,stir fried or in an omelette. The seeds are also eaten in China.

Since its introduction to North America in the 18 th century it has become an invasive weed and caused great losses in the yields of cereal crops. It costs a good deal of money to keep this species under control.

Abutilon megapotamicum


Abutilon megapotamicum .

Abutilon megapotamicum,commonly referred to as the trailing Abutilon is a species native to Argentina,Brazil and Uruquay. It can attain the height of eight feet+ with foliage over three inches long. The leaves are ovate and often appear three lobed.

The flowers are pendulous,they have a red base and orange-yellow petals. They are about one point six inches long. It is an evergreen shrub very popular in gardens,however,they are frost tender so more suited to warmer climes.

Abuliton x hybridum variety 'Patrick Synge'


Abutilon x hybridum 'Kentish Belle' growing in a London garden.


Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii'


Abutilon x hybridum

Abutilon x hybridum is a name allocated to a wide range of flowering plants perfected by growers over a long period of time. The origin of the parentage is unknown,but this group of cultivars are not found in the wild.

Abutilon x hybridum {sometimes referred to as Abutilon globosum of gardens} have varieties such 'Ashford Red' a strong growing evergreen shrub,rounded,attaining the height of ten feet with a similar spread. It is a half hardy shrub that produces maple-like foliage to heart shaped leaves,which are toothed and rich green in colour. They carry pendent flowers,bell-shaped and crimson from spring to autumn. variety 'Golden fleece' carries yellow flowers.

Abutilon x hybridum variety 'Kentish Belle', is a semi evergreen,arching shrub,with purple shoots and deeply lobed,purple veined,dark green leaves. During the summer and autumn it bears pendent flowers,bell-shaped and orange,yellow and red flowers. It requires full sun and well drained soil. It is an half hardy shrub and will need protection from frost.

Abutilon pictum, sometimes referred to as A.striatum, is a native to south Brazil,Argentina,Paraquay and Uruquay. The plant has become naturalized in Central America. It is a popular plant of gardens and called ,among other things, the 'Red veined Chinese Lantern'. It grows to the height of five metres {sixteen feet} with a spread of Six feet. The foliage is five to fifteen centimetres long and have three to five {rarely seven } lobes.

The pendent,bell-shaped flowers are yellow to orange-red,with prominent dark red veins. They have five petals two to four centimetres long which appear from April until September. In more tropical climes they can have a much longer flowering periuod. The flowers are eaten in some countries,raw or cooked.

Cultivated varieties such as Abutilon pictum 'Thompsonii' is a robust shrub upright and evergreen with foliage that has three to five lobes, the leaves are toothed ,rich green but heavily mottled. The yellow-orange flowers with crimson veins appear from summer to autumn. They are frost tender and will need some protection. They require a well drained fertile soil in full sun.

Abutilon x sunstence,is an upright,fast growing deciduous shrub with an arching tendency,it attains the height of up to fifteen feet with a spread of ten feet. This species is frost hardy. The leaves are oval,lobed and toothed with a dark green colouring.The bowl-shaped ,pale to deep purple {occasionally white} flowers appear from late spring to early autumn.

Abutilon vitifolium is also a fsat growing shrub up to twelve feet tall.It produces masses of large bowl-shaped flowers of a purplish blue colour,they appear in spring and early summer. It has oval lobed,sharply toothed grey-grey leaves.

Abutilon vitifolium 'Tennant's Whitre' is a shrub that produces a mass of beautiful white flowers {see image}.

Abutilon vitifolium'Tennant's White'


Other images of Abutilon x hybridum 'Patricia'.


Abutilon x hybridum ' Moonchimes'.


Abutilon sandwicense Flower.


Abutilon palmeri flower.


Back to the wild.

Abutlion listria,commonly referred to as the 'Lantern flower', is endemic to Christmas Island,an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. The specific name is dedicated to Joseph Jackson Lister a British Zoologist and plant collector.

It grow quite abundantly in natural clearings and the rain forest margins behind the sea cliffs on the lower levels and may be encountered along tracks. It attains the height of up to twelve feet. The leaves are circular to broadly ovate,either entire or slightly crenate. The yellow flowers are borne in loose terminal panicles.

Abutilon palmeri,commonly known as Palmer's Abutilon is a native to the south western United States and north west Mexico.This shrub {which is also popularly grown in the gardens of warmer climates} attains the height of four to ten feet with a spread of about three feet.

The branches and twigs are pubescent and of a red-brown colour. The bark varies from green to brown. The leaves are heart shaped with a velvety texture and arranged alternately ,they are toothed,and covered with a dense woolly pubescence and of a bluish -grey green.

The flowers have five petals and are cup shaped in beautiful shades of yellow to orange and are about an inch wide. They flower throughout the summer. The fruit is typical of the Mallow family,round button shaped and covered by hairs.

Abutilon sandwicense, referred to as the Green flower Indian Mallow is endemic to the island of O'ahu Hawaii. It is a plant of dry forests on the slopes of the Wai'anae Range. It is classed as Critically Endangered due to habitat loss

Other species under threat.

In the wild there are other species under threat. Abutilon sachetianum is listed as vulnerable.

Abutilon juianae,endemic to Norfolk Island and near by Philip Island, is classed as Critically endangered due to over grazing and other factors.

Abutilon meniziesii, is endemic to Hawaii. It is a plant of dry forests. This species is also listed as Critically endangered with fewer than ten naturally occurring populations throughout the islands. Urban development and over grazing are contributing factors.

Abutilon pitcairnense,is a Critically endangered a plant, native to the Pitcairn Island. This plant stood on the brink of extinction with just one plant left on the island in 2003. Cuttings and seeds were taken to propagate plants on the Island and in Botanical gardens of Ireland and England.

The last surviving plant was lost in a landslide in 2005 making the plant extinct in the wild.

Abutilon meniesii is Critically endangered in the wild.



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hi Deb,

      They are beautiful flowers, it is a sad fact that we are loosing so much fauna and flora due to our interference with nature, as you are well aware with your excellent work on the bird species. Thank you for taking the time read and comment it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These are beautiful flowers! There are so many endemic plants that have gone by the wayside due to loss of habitat. There are measures now for control in the States. So many things are losing natural habitat. Excellent piece that really increased my knowledge,

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Hello Catherine,

      Good to see you here. Yea it is a bit ambitious but there is plenty to go at and it will keep me out of mischief lol. I am doing well at the moment,fingers crossed . Thank you for your concern. Best wishes to you and yours.

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 

      3 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hello Dave! Abutilons are among my favorites for the shadier corners of my So. California garden. I'm most familiar w/ the showy hybrids, so thank you for introducing me the other varieties. The white ones are lovely, and I rarely see them come into the nursery. Very informative with beautiful pictures- you are ambitious to take on plant genera A-Z!

      I trust you are doing well.

      All the best,



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