abutilon

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abutilon

(əbyo͞ot`əlŏn): see mallowmallow,
common name for members of the Malvaceae, a family of herbs and shrubs distributed over most of the world and especially abundant in the American tropics. Tropical species sometimes grow as small trees.
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Abutilon

 

a genus of annual or perennial plants of the family Malvaceae, including grasses, shrubs, and, more rarely, small trees, often slightly downy. The leaves are usually simple or lobed (other shapes only rarely). The blossoms are usually large, having axils but lacking a subcalyx. The corolla is usually yellow. The fruit consists of several (more than ten) separate pods, initially growing together, that contain several seeds each. Abutilon comprises more than 150 species (some sources give more than 400), growing in the tropics and subtropics of both hemispheres. There is only one species, piemarker (A. theophrasti or A. avicen-nae), in the USSR, growing in the southern European part, the Caucasus, and Middle Asia. It is most often cultivated as a fiber crop. There are approximately ten other species that are raised for fiber or for decorative purposes.

Piemarker is an annual grassy plant with a straight, slightly branched stem at the top, growing in cultured varieties to a height of 4 m. The root is rodlike with numerous side rootlets. The leaves are sequential and scaly, with lengths up to 15 cm. They are deeply lobed and crenulate at the edges. The yellow or orange flowers are separate or gathered into broomlike racemes. The fruit consists of 12-15 sharp pods. The seeds are bud-shaped and nearly black; 1,000 seeds weigh 14-18 g. The growing period for piemarker is 100—150 days. During the first month the foliage above ground develops very slowly, while the root system grows rapidly.

Abutilons are basically self-pollinating. They need light and moisture, particularly during blossoming and seed formation. Thick plantings slightly retard stem growth. The seeds begin to sprout at temperatures of 10°-12°C, and the sprouts can withstand cold down to 2°C. The optimal temperature for growth and development is 20°-22°C. The most suitable soils for cultivation are chernozems and marshland.

The dry stems of abutilons are up to 25 percent fiber, which is spun and then made into burlap, binder twine, string, and the like. The fiber is durable but brittle; it is frequently boiled in a weak solution of sodium hydroxide to improve it. By-products are made into paper and insulating plates. The seeds contain 16–20 percent semisiccative oil that is suitable for making soap or drying oil. The original source and ancient center of abutilon cultivation is China, where it is still grown extensively. Plantings may also be found in the Mongolian People’s Republic, Japan, Egypt, and the USA. In the the USSR abutilons are grown for collections and in experimental research plantations.

REFERENCES

Lubianye kul’tury: Sb. st. Edited by la. M. Tollochko. Moscow, 1950.
Lubianye kul’tury. Edited by la. M. Tollochko. Moscow, 1953.
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