Abutilon theophrasti- Velvet Leaf
Abutilon theophrasti has many many common names- so many that I wouldn't be surprised if it had one common name for every star in the sky. Velvet Leaf, Indian Mallow, China Jute, Buttonweed and sometimes Elephant Ear are used to refer to this annual that is native to Southern Asia. It was introduced into North America in the 1700s where it made itself at home in roadsides, cultivated fields and gardens. Velvet Leaf is considered a noxious weed because it can considerably reduce crop yields as it steals water and nutrients from crops.
When you come across this weed a number of the common names will make a lot of sense. The large leaves are very soft to the touch and feel almost like...well...velvet. The stems and branches are strong and flexible and you can understand why fiber from the plant has been used in China to produce cords, threads, nets and woven bags since 2000 B.C.
The flowers are small and range from yellow to orange and sometimes go unnoticed (and unappreciated) below the large heart-shaped leaves that can be as much as 8 inches long. Each of the flowers, that last about a day, are quickly replaced by a fruit that is initially a light green but quickly turns brown or black. The seeds which are eaten in China can remain dormant in the soil for 50+ years just waiting for the right conditions to germinate.
Two years ago I spotted a lanky plant growing in a neighbor's garden and asked her about it. She didn't know what it was but allowed me to take a photo of it to have it IDed by members of a gardening website I post on. It was easy enough finding someone who was familiar with it and warned about letting it go to seed. Unfortunately my neighbor didn't follow through with the advice and now I have it growing in my garden. As soon as I take a few more photographs of this weed I'll be removing the seed pods which one gardener told me were used by his mother to decorate the edges of pies when he was growing up on the family farm.
Source: Velvet Leaf