Velvetleaf has been found in fodder beet crops in both the North and South Islands. Act now to find and remove this aggressive weed and stop it spreading further in New Zealand.

Download the velvetleaf farm management factsheet [PDF, 773 KB]

Download the 'Ute guide' for field management of velvetleaf [PDF, 5.2 MB] 


Velvetleaf is a distinctive, tall weed
Velvetleaf found in Canterbury

Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) is present on a number of properties throughout New Zealand.

It is a serious cropping weed, potentially affecting many arable crops by competing for nutrients, space, and water. It is an Unwanted Organism in New Zealand.

Individual velvetleaf plants produce up to 15,000 seeds so a small problem can quickly become a large one.

The presence of velvetleaf is associated with the importation of contaminated fodder beet seed. A list of known contaminated lines is on this page, but there may have been other affected lines.

Farmers, particularly those who sowed fodder beet seed in 2015, should check their properties carefully. If you find velvetleaf, remove it and dispose of it – ideally before it goes to seed.

What to look for

Velvetleaf is an annual broad-leaved weed that grows between 1m and 2.5m tall.

Velvetleaf flower. Photo courtesy of Landcare Research.
Velvetleaf flower
  • It has buttery-yellow flowers about 3cm across. It flowers from spring through autumn.
  • Leaves are large and heart-shaped and are velvety to the touch.
  • The plant has distinctive seedpods with 12 to 15 segments in a cup-like ring. Each seedpod is about 2.5cm in diameter.

What you can do

If you find velvetleaf, follow these instructions:

If the plants have no seeds or if seed pods are green

  • Record the location of the plant/s so it is easy to find again for future monitoring.
  • Pull out the plant. Bag the full plant – using a large bag (for example fertiliser bag or sack).
  • Dispose of the bagged plant/s by deep burial (at least 1m) or in a covered offal pit.

If the seed pods have turned black

Velvetleaf seedpod
Velvetleaf seedpod
  • Carefully place a large bag (like a fertiliser bag or sack) over the plant's seed capsules and tie the bag tightly around the stem. It is important to make sure all seed heads are contained within the bag.
  • Bend the velvetleaf plant in half so that seeds cannot escape out of the neck of the bag.
  • Carefully pull out the plant, bag it again, and dispose of it by deep burial (at least 1m) or in a covered offal pit.
  • Inspect the rest of your crop to ensure there are no more plants.
  • Re-inspect your fields before grazing your fodder beet crop.

Our factsheet, 'ute guide', and velvetleaf farm management plan have more information on what to do. This includes information about stock grazing, stock movements, and managing farm equipment to prevent spreading velvetleaf.

Contact your regional council and inform them of the find. They will be able to help you develop a plan to manage it.

Affected seed lines

When velvetleaf was first found in the South Island in early 2016, MPI tested a range of imported fodder beet seed lines for velvetleaf contamination.

Velvetleaf seed was only found in seed lines sourced from Italy. The imported seed was certified as meeting our biosecurity requirements by Danish authorities.

Fodder beet lines that have tested positive for velvetleaf contamination are:

  • Kyros DNK -16UB128
  • Bangor DNK-15UB079
  • Bangor DNK- 16UB126
  • Bangor DNK- 16UB114
  • Feldherr DNK-16UB131
  • Troya DNK-16UB112

However, this list is not exhaustive. There may have been other contaminated lines and farmers who planted any lines of fodder beet need to be vigilant.
As a result of the findings, MPI immediately reviewed and strengthened its importing requirements for pelletised seed.

All seed lines that tested positive for velvetleaf, an unwanted organism, are not cleared for entry into New Zealand. Any of these lines that arrive here are either re-shipped or destroyed.

What's being done?

MPI is continuing to work with partner organisations to manage velvetleaf. In particular, regional councils have been funded to work with farmers who planted risk seed to develop management plans for their properties. The aim is to find it, contain it, and safely remove any plants found. 

Find out more

Who to contact

Farmers finding it difficult to deal with the added stress of the velvetleaf incursion are encouraged to call their Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP) for a free, confidential chat.

MPI and regional councils, Federated Farmers, Foundation for Arable Research, New Zealand Grain and Seed Trade Association, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand thank you for your help in this important work.

If you have questions about velvetleaf, contact your regional council or email

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