From the warm temperate climates come a genus of plants called
These deciduous, tender shrubs and
trees belongs to Malvaceae (Mallow family). They are natives of Brazil,
tropical Asia and India and are commonly known as Flowering Maples. They
have handsome foliage and gorgeous, bell- or saucer-shaped blossoms.
are closely related to hibiscus, and most of the hundred or so species
have pendulous, hibiscus-like flowers. Cultivars produced by hybridising
some of the South American abutilons have all been placed in one group
known as Chinese lantern (Abutilon x hybridum),
and these are the ones most commonly grown in gardens. They have a wispy,
delicate form and colourful, lantern-shaped flowers. For gardeners who
prefer plants with a more dense habit, new compact varieties are also
Another popular abutilon is the Brazilian
megapotamicum), which is a prostrate species. Megapotamicum means
'from the big river' referring to the Rio Grande in Brazil.
Another popular but not ornamental abutilon is
Abutilon. Theophrastii, the Chinese
Hemp or Indian Mallow. This is a small bush
that produces valuable fiber between the bark and wood of the stems.
Several Abutilons produce this, but the Chinese Hemp is the most useful.
Abutilon. Theophrastii has various medical
properties. The leaves contain 0.01% rutin and are used as a demulcent. A tea
made from the dried leaves is used in the treatment of dysentery and
fevers. A poultice of the leaves is applied to ulcers. The bark is astringent and
A tea made from the dried root is used in the treatment of dysentery and
urinary incontinence. It is also used to treat fevers.
The seed is powdered and eaten in the treatment of dysentery, stomach-aches
etc. It is demulcent, diuretic, emollient, laxative and stomachic.
A fibre obtained from the stems is used as a jute
substitute. It is coarse but flexible and strong. It is also used in
rope-making. It takes dyes well. The fibre is also used for
making paper, the stems are harvested in the summer, the leaves removed
and the stems steamed in order to remove the fibres.
Ábutilon theophrastii can be found all over the world as
introduced weed. The entire plant is covered with short, soft trichomes and the plant is commonly called
"Velvet-leaf." It is most commonly seen along disturbed roadsides and in unkempt cultivated