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A new record for Abutilon theophrasti is recorded for the first time in the flora of Libya. This widespread agricultural weed was collected from El-Hamra region (El-Qabel) in the Nafusa Mountain south of Tripoli. To facilitate further identification and future detection, a full description, habitat information, distribution map and distribution data are provided. A brief discussion about the most important threats posed by this species is presented.
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Phytotaxa 402 (5): 259–264
https://www.mapress.com/j/pt/
Copyright © 2019 Magnolia Press Article PHYTOTAXA
ISSN 1179-3155 (print edition)
ISSN 1179-3163 (online edition)
Accepted by Ronell Klopper: 25 Apr. 2019; published: 6 May 2019
https://doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.402.5.5
259
The first record of Abutilon theophrasti (Malvaceae) in the flora of Libya
MOHAMMED. H. MAHKLOUF¹* & SH-HOOB. M. EL-AHAMIR²
1 Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Tripoli University. Tripoli. Libya
2 Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Gharyan University. Gharyan. Libya
* Author for correspondence: E-mail: mahklouf64@yahoo.com
Abstract
A new record for Abutilon theophrasti is recorded for the first time in the flora of Libya. This widespread agricultural weed
was collected from El-Hamra region (El-Qabel) in the Nafusa Mountain south of Tripoli. To facilitate further identification
and future detection, a full description, habitat information, distribution map and distribution data are provided. A brief dis-
cussion about the most important threats posed by this species is presented.
Keywords: Gharyan, new record, taxonomy, velvetleaf
Introduction
Abutilon theophrasti Medikus (1787: 28) (Malvaceae) is native to Asia, specifically China and India. In China, A.
theophrasti naturally occurs in the Southern China belt, starting in the north along the southern side of the Qin Ling
Range in the west. Abutilon theophrasti has been introduced into Europe, particularly in southeastern Europe where it
occurs as a weed of cultivated land, the Mediterranean region, the Middle East, and the Americas (Spencer et al. 1985).
It was originally introduced in many parts of the world as a potential fiber crop and has later been accidently imported
as a seed contaminant (Suominen 1979, Warwick & Black 1988, Jäger 1991, Holt & Boose 2000, Follak et al. 2014).
The current paper presents the first report of A. theophrasti being naturalized in Libya. It is also the first record of the
genus Abutilon Miller (1754: 23) for the flora of Libya. The Malvaceae in Libya was previously represented by 10
genera (three native and seven cultivated) and 28 species (12 native and 16 cultivated).
Materials and methods
Plant material were collected from the El-Hamra region (El-Qabel) about 8 km northwest of Gharyan city, and 3.8
km west of Qawasim (32.209039° N, 13.006949° E) in the Nafusa Mountain south of Tripoli, Libya. (Fig. 1). The
material was brought to the National Herbarium (ULT) of the Department of Botany, Faculty of Sciences, Tripoli
University, Libya (acronym follows Thiers 2019), and subjected to standard herbarium procedures (drying, pressing
and mounting).
The plant specimen was examined carefully, characterized, described, and morphological data was taken.
Identification of the specimen to species level was done using data from several references (Cullen 1967, Boliotes
1984, Warwick & Black 1986, Tanji & Taleb 1997). It was then given a voucher number (7410111) and deposited at
the ULT herbarium, with a duplicate sent to the herbarium of the Botany Department, Gharyan University, Gharyan,
Libya.
Species treatment
Abutilon theophrasti Medikus (1787: 28)
MAHKLOUF & EL-AHAMIR
260 Phytotaxa 402 (5) © 2019 Magnolia Press
FIGURE 1. Map of Libya (left) and detailed map of the Gharyan district (right) showing the locality where Abutilon theophrasti (black
star) was collected.
Synonyms:—Sida abutilon Linnaeus (1753: 685); Abutilon avicennae Gaertner (1791: 251).
English names:—Velvetleaf, abutilon, butterprint, elephant ears, Indian mallow, piemarker (Alex & Switzer
1970), buttonweed (Reed 1970), cottonweed (Roeth 1987), China jute, abutilon hemp, Manchurian jute, American jute
(Spencer 1984).
FIGURE 2. Abutilon theophrasti. A. Habit of plant showing large, cordate, velvety leaves. B. Flower showing small size and yellow to
yellow-orange colour. C. Fruit with many scabrous mericarps bearing two long awns at the apex. Photographs by S.M. El-Ahamir.
Annual subshrub, 1–2 m high. Stem and twigs pubescent with fine hairs. Leaves simple, long petioled, alternate,
broadly heart-shaped, round to cordate at base, apex acuminate, ca. 50–200 mm long, velvety, densely stellate pubescent
on both surfaces, margin minutely crenate; petiole 30–120 mm long, with stellate hairs. Flowers single or in small
clusters from leaf axils; peduncles shorter than petioles; pedicel 10–30 mm long, pubescent, with thickening near apex;
flowers yellow, calyx cup-shaped, densely puberulous, with five ovate lobes ca. 6 mm long; petals obovate, ca. 10 mm
in length, slightly notched at apex. Stamens many, monodelphous, united to form central column. Ovary many (10–15)
carpelled. Fruits semi-globose capsules, 12–25 × 20–25 mm, with 12–20 scabrous mericarps bearing two long awns
at apex; carpels open with vertical slit along outer edge, contain 1–3 seeds. Seed purplish-brown, reniform, notched,
stellately puberulous, flattened, 2–3 × 1 mm. (Fig. 2, 3).
THE FIRST RECORD OF ABUTILON THEOPHRASTI Phytotaxa 402 (5) © 2019 Magnolia Press 261
FIGURE 3. Herbarium specimen of Abutilon theophrasti collected in the Gharyan district of Libya.
Habitat:—Meadows, ditches and field margins. Range from altitudes of 200–500 m above sea level, the soil
ranges from gray-brown, sandy clay soil, and sandy to clay loams.
Flowering time:—April–September.
Fruiting time:—May–October.
Chromosome number:—Abutilon theophrasti is hexaploid with 2n = 6x = 42 (Bolkhovskikh et al. 1969, Warwick
& Black 1986, 1988).
Voucher specimen:—LIBYA, Abohamra region, 3.8 km west of Qwasim [Qawasim] city (32.209039° N,
13.006949° E), 29-5-2018, S. El-Ahmir & H. Abugafer s.n. (ULT!, Gharyan University!) (Fig. 3).
MAHKLOUF & EL-AHAMIR
262 Phytotaxa 402 (5) © 2019 Magnolia Press
Results and Discussion
The native origin of Abutilon theophrasti includes both India (Reed 1970, Shaw et al. 1974, Flint et al. 1983) and
China (Spencer 1984). It has initially been introduced into many countries worldwide, especially in Europe, Korea,
and North America, by cultivation as a fiber crop. During recent years, it was accidentally imported as a contaminant
of crop seeds and grains (Spencer 1984).
Abutilon theophrasti was probably introduced to Japan and Korea in the 10th century (Enomoto 1997) and is now
widely distributed in these countries (Shimizu et al. 1994). It is also recorded as introduced plants from Afghanistan,
Pakistan, India and Nepal (Spencer 1984). It was originally introduced into Europe, where it occurs as a weed of
cultivated land and waste places, particularly in southeastern Europe (Spencer 1984), and as a contaminant of bird seed
into Britain (Hanson & Mason 1985), and as a grain contaminant into Finland (Suominen 1979). Its mode of introduction
into Turkey is unknown (Cullen 1967). In addition, it was reported in the Netherlands in 1981 (Rotteveel 1981) and
continues to spread throughout Europe (Warwick & Black 1988). Abutilon theophrasti has later been introduced into
in the United States and has spread across almost the entire North American continent (Webb 1968, Mitich 1991). In
Canada, it commonly occurs in maize and soybean fields (Doyon et al. 1986, Warwick & Black 1986). In the African
Mediterranean region, it was first introduced into Morocco in 1980 (Tanji & Taleb 1997). Moreover, recent research
listed A. theophrasti in the alien flora of Tunisia (Sayari & Mekki 2016) and Egypt (El-Ghani & El-Sawaf 2004).
Abutilon theophrasti is here reported for the first time from the El-Hamra region (El-Qabel) in Libya. This
collection also constitutes the first record of the genus Abutilon in the flora of Libya. The species is easily recognized
by its erect tall growth habit, large, alternate, heart-shaped leaves, which are soft and velvety to the touch, small yellow
to yellow-orange flowers, and distinct capsules with many scabrous mericarps bearing two long awns at the apex.
The species is one of the most noxious weeds in agricultural fields (Spencer 1984, Kurokawa et al. 2003), causing
serious economic damage due to major yield losses during the agricultural production of particularly maize, soybeans,
sugar beets, and cotton. Its allelopathic effects on crops depresses germination and growth of alfalfa, maize, radish,
soybean, and turnip seedlings (Spencer 1984, Mitich 1991, Kurokawa et al. 2003). Apparently, Abutilon theophrastii
has not yet been reported as an invasive plant in natural vegetation in any area, and therefore its impact on biodiversity
is considered to be small. Subsequently, the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG 2003; https://www.cabi.org/isc/
datasheet/1987) does not list it as a global invasive species.
The mode and time of its introduction and arrival to Libya remains unknown. It may have been introduced
as a seed contaminant. Its presence in cultivated fields as well as in natural vegetation in Libya is an alert to its
probable invasiveness, and to a possible emerging problem that can have serious impacts. Speedy implementation of
an appropriate management plan, including quarantine and potential eradication, is required.
Control options should include the prevention of introducing Abutilon theophrasti into previously uninfested
fields and environments, by avoiding the spread of seeds via contaminated soil and harvesting. In fields, management
should target surveillance of incipient infestations and subsequent uprooting of small populations before seed set
(Follak et al. 2014).
Acknowledgments
We are grateful to Mr Hisham Ali Abo-Jafer for assistance in collecting material for examination; and to two anonymous
reviewers for suggesting improvements to the manuscript.
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