Weed With Heart Shaped Seed Pods

Weeds are an unfortunate part of every garden. Velvetleaf is one common species that occurs primarily in the southern half of the state. Learn more about this rather distinctive and conspicuous weed in this article… Weed With Heart Shaped Seed Pods Appearance Lepidium draba is a perennial forb in the mustard family that can grow up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall. Foliage The leaves are soft, gray-green, 1.5-3 in. Home Yard & Garden Newsletter at the University of Illinois Vining plants are often desirable in the home landscape. They cleverly disguise carefully placed trellises and their form seems to take

Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti

Velvetleaf is a tall, distinctive plant.
Velvetleaf, Abutilon theophrasti, is a common weed in agricultural fields, but also occurs in gardens and in disturbed sites, such as along roadsides and beside railroad tracks, throughout much of the U.S., and parts of Wisconsin. It is a particular problem in corn and soybean files in the eastern and midwestern U.S., costing hundreds of millions of dollars per year in control and damage. Velvetleaf is an extremely competitive plant, stealing nutrients and water away from crops, thereby significantly reducing yields. Velvetleaf is considered to be a noxious weed in several states, including Colorado, Iowa, Oregon and Washington.
Velvetleaf distribution in Wisconsin. Map from Wisconsin State Herbarium
Its common name comes from the soft leaves which are covered in short hairs, creating a velvety feel. Also known as butter print and China jute, A. theophrasti comes originally from India and tropical Asia and is in the mallow family (Malvaceae). Velvetleaf is a rather tall and lanky plant with large leaves. It is easy to identify because there is really nothing else in our area that resembles it. Other introduced weedy members of the mallow family are much smaller plants, and the native Hibiscus species are perennials with darker foliage and much larger flowers.
The heart-shaped leaves are soft and velvety.
Velvetleaf is usually considered to be an annual, although it can grow as a short lived perennial in zones 8-11. It can grow up to 8 feet tall in a single season but is usually 2-4 feet tall. It has been grown in China since around 2000 B.C. for its strong, jute-like fiber in the erect stem for making cords, nets, woven bags, rugs and other coarse textiles. The Chinese also used the plant for medicinal purposes to treat fever, dysentery, stomachaches and other problems.
Velvetleaf seedling.
Velvetleaf typically occurs where the soil has been recently disturbed and the long dormant seeds are brought close to the soil surface. Seeds sprout anytime the soil is warm enough. Seedlings have one round and one heart-shaped cotyledon. The first true leaves are heart-shaped, with toothed margins.
This plant prefers full sun and fertile loam or clay-loam. The level of nitrogen, has a strong influence on the size of the plant. The plant quickly grows to produce larger and larger alternate, palmate, heart-shaped leaves that taper to a point (acuminate) with prominent veins. Both sides of the leaves and the petioles are densely hairy. The plants produce both a taproot and a fibrous root system. All upper parts off the plant have an unpleasant odor when crushed.
In midsummer orange-yellow flowers are produced on short stalks from the leaf axils on the upper part of the stem. The solitary flowers have 5 petals and are from ½ to 1” in diameter.
Velvetleaf blooms in leaf axils, producing orange-yellow flowers with 5 petals, followed by a distinctive seedpod.
The flowers are followed by interesting fruits. The capsules are cup-shaped, with a ring of prickles around the upper edge and a series of crimps along the sides that resemble the fluted edge of a pie crust. The fruit is initially light green but rather quickly turns brown or black.
Velvetleaf seeds. Photo by Steve Hurst @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
The 1” seed pods contain 5 to 15 greyish-brown, flattened seeds about 1/8” long. Each plant produces 700 to 17,000 viable seeds. The seeds can remain viable in soil for over 50 years.
The seeds are eaten by humans in China and Kashmir. In the U.S., the prairie deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), eat 70-90% of the seeds produced in Iowa corn fields, and likely they or similar rodents do the same elsewhere. Many insects also feed on the seeds, especially the native scentless plant bug (Rhopalidae) Niesthrea louisianica, whose immatures and adults feed on seeds of malvaceous plants. Inundative releases of this bug were used for biological control in New York and four midwestern states, resulting in a significant reduction in seed viability in the areas where it was established. Although they will feed on ornamentals in the mallow family, such as Rose-of-Sharon, they don’t cause noticeable damage to the plants.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison

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Weed With Heart Shaped Seed Pods

Appearance Lepidium draba is a perennial forb in the mustard family that can grow up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall. Foliage The leaves are soft, gray-green, 1.5-3 in. (3.7-7.6 cm) long with fine hairs and heart-shaped bases. The lower leaves tend to have more hairs than the upper leaves. The upper leaves clasp to the stem of the plant. Flowers Flowering occurs in early spring to early summer, when white, four-petaled flowers develop in clusters at the apex of the stem. Fruit The fruit are heart-shaped seed pods. Ecological Threat Lepidium draba invades rangelands, pastures, streambanks, and open forests primarily in the western United States, although it does occur in the East. It can form large infestations that can displace native species and reduce grazing quality. This plant is native to Central Europe and Western Asia and was first introduced into the United States in the early 20th century.


    – The Nature Conservancy – USDA-APHIS – USDA Forest Service – USDA Forest Service

Selected Images

EDDMapS Distribution – This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit www.eddmaps.org

State List – This map identifies those states that list this species on their invasive species list or law. For more information, visit Invasive.org

Home Yard & Garden Newsletter at the University of Illinois

Vining plants are often desirable in the home landscape. They cleverly disguise carefully placed trellises and their form seems to take on a life of its own. Some vines have been known to cover trees, poles, cars, and even slow moving animals I suspect. Quite a few vines are considered weedy by most. Too often, people will allow an unidentified, cute, little vine to flower. Fast forward a few years, and its population will be out of control. The initial cuteness impression will be long gone and efforts will be underway to eradicate it.

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Proper identification is critical to good weed control as is scouting often for emerging weed issues. Need some help identifying those mystery vines? Here is a brief description of some of the more common weedy vines found in lawns and gardens. As with all broadleaf weeds, leaf arrangement, flower type and the presence of underground structures such as rhizomes or tubers all play a key role in identification.

Honeyvine milkweed (Ampelamus albidus) is a perennial vine that spreads by seed and long spreading roots. The leaves are heart-shaped on long petioles and opposite on the stem. Flowers are small, whitish, and borne in clusters. It forms a smooth, green seed pod that is similar to that of common milkweed. Pods persist into winter and can then be spotted easily in the landscape when evergreens are the backdrop. The presence of the pod is a dead giveaway for identifying this weed.

Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium) is a perennial vine that spreads by rhizomes. The leaves are alternate on the stem and are distinctly triangular in shape with a pointy tip. The leaf base is cut squarely. The flowers are white to pink, and funnel-shaped like that of morningglory, another vine I will discuss in a bit. Bindweed is often mistaken for morningglory which is an annual weed. Initially, it may not be perceived as much of a problem, although, the rhizomes can help this vine spread quickly.

Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is similar to hedge bindweed except the leaves are arrowhead shaped with a rounded tip. Also, the leaves are smaller and the leaf bases are rounded with outwardly divergent lobes. I try to keep the two straight by thinking “hedges have edges.” Field bindweed is a rhizomatous perennial as well.

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Wild buckwheat (Polygonum convolvulus) is similar also, but the lobes at the base of the leaf point backwards toward the petiole and it has an ochrea which is the easiest way to differentiate between these species. An ochrea is a papery sheath that encircles the stem where the petiole attaches to the stem. It is indicative of the smartweed family for which it is a member. Also, the flowers are greenish white and inconspicuous. They are clustered on long white racemes. Wild buckwheat is an annual so there are no rhizomes like the bindweeds have. Don’t let this fool you; it is still considered a “serious weed” according to Weeds of the North Central States.

Morningglories (Ipomoea spp.) are often confused with bindweed and wild buckwheat too except the leaf shape is quite different. Depending on the species, leaves are either heart shaped or 3-lobed (ivy like). The cotyledons are butterfly-shaped. Most of the morningglories found in Illinois are summer annuals so reproduction is by seed. Bigroot morningglory or wild sweet potato as it’s also called (I. pandurata) is a perennial found across the state. Both bigroot and tall morningglory have heart shaped leaves like honeyvine milkweed, however, the leaves are alternate on the stem. Bigroot morningglory can be distinguished by its reddish purple centered white flowers and large underground tubers.

Controls for vines include repeated pulling or cutting back, mowing, mulching, and herbicides. In a turf situation, grass should be properly maintained and mowed as high as possible. These vines have a difficult time growing in thick, lush turfgrass. Postemergent herbicides that provide at least some control of these vines include but are not limited to the following: 2,4-D, carfentrazone, quinclorac, dicamba, oxyfluorfen, and triclopyr. Glyphosate may also be used for spot applications as it is a non-selective herbicide. Be sure to carefully read and follow all label directions. Repeated applications may be necessary. Summer annual weeds are most susceptible to treatment in the spring or early summer when they are young. For perennials such as the bindweeds, fall applications may be most effective.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you know. Just today as I snapped a picture of field bindweed in flower, an innocent bystander said that she thought the flowers were so pretty. She’s right. They are pretty–up close. But when I see this vine cover a shrub, I can’t think of it being anything other than a weed.–Michelle Wiesbrook

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