Abutilon hirtum: Hairy Indian mallow

Hairy Indian mallow is a plant very commonly seen in open areas, roadsides and hillsides, dotting the landscape with their yellow flowers.

Family: Malvaceae
Common name: Hairy Indian mallow, Indian mallow

It’s interesting how many wild plants in India can be classified as herbs based on their medicinal characteristics. Hairy Indian mallow is a plant very commonly seen in open areas, roadsides, hillsides, forest margins, pastures etc., transforming the landscape with their beautiful yellow and red flowers. The stem is quite woody towards the base and green towards the tips.

They can grow to a height of 2.5 meters with ovate or heart-shaped leaves, which are very hairy on both upper and lower surfaces. Leaves are 5-18 cms in length and width; and have coarsely-toothed, wavy margins. The wavy edges give these matt-green leaves a ruffled appearance, especially in older leaves.

Beautiful yellow flowers with bright red center are the highlight of this plant since the plants flower profusely, almost throughout the year in ideal growing conditions. The flower is about 3 cms in diameter with 1-1.5 cm long petals and a dense tuft of stamens at the center.

Stems, leaves, flowers and young parts of the plant are covered with dense hairs, making them slightly sticky. Flowers are bisexual, containing both male and female reproductive organs. They are capable of self-pollination; and are also pollinated through wind and insects.

The flowers then produce beautiful seedpods which look like ruff colors that were used in the 16th century. They have separate compartments for each seed, and is initially green. Later, they turn brown and then almost black with small button like seeds contained in separate compartments that are pointy at both ends. When mature, these seedpods open up to release the seeds.

Hairy Indian mallow plants produce an abundance of seeds, with a high probability of germination, making sure that the plant continues to survive in the harshest growing conditions. They are usually seen in warm, tropical weather with moderate rainfall.

Though these plants are considered invasive weeds, they have many medicinal uses. They are used in treatment of fever, headaches, ulcer, kidney stones, leprosy, urinary bladder diseases, cough, tooth pain and abscesses.

The analgesic and aphrodisiacal properties of the Hairy Indian mallow make them a very valuable medicinal plant in traditional herbal medicine. The fruits are eaten raw since they have a mucilaginous texture. Fiber obtained from the stem is used to make strings, ropes and clothing.

Propagation is through seeds, and very efficient.

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