Abutilon otocarpum

Desert Chinese Lantern

Family: Malvaceae

Abutilon otocarpum is a small shrub to about 0.7 metres tall.

It is found on the western plains on NSW, in semi-arid conditions; on red sandy soils, sand rises and dunes. It is also found in all other mainland states in similar habitats.

Leaves are to 6 cm long and are narrow to circular, hairy and toothed.

The flowers are yellow and solitary, with 5 petals, borne singly on stalks originating at the bases of the leaves, often appearing clustered at the ends of the stems and can occur all year.

Fruit are around 8 mm diameter and split into singular mericarps.

In the garden

A hardy plant if grown in similar environment to that naturally occurring, that is: drier climates with good drainage and full sun.

Nice showy flowers which likely do a good job of attracting butterflies and other insects. 

Prune after flowering to keep tidy and create a denser plant


From seed or cuttings.

Other information

This species is reportedly used historically by local First Nations Peoples of Australia for food, fruit flesh, firewood, toys, implements, spears, shade or shelter, fish-poisons and traps.

Most Malvaceae members regenerate from seed after fire and after heavy rain.

Abutilon is a genus of over 100 species, mostly found in sub-tropical and tropical regions. Australia has about 30 species, occurring in all mainland states. NSW currently has 11 species.

Abutilon – a word derived from Arabic meaning “mulberry” or possibly “maple”.

otocarpum – derived from Greek otikos (οτικός)– referring to “ears” or “the ear” and –carpum Latin from Greek karpos (καρπός) meaning “fruit” – referring to ear-shaped fruit-segments (mericarps).

This species is not known to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Abutilon otocarpum profile page 

Wikipedia – Abutilon otocarpum profile page                          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abutilon_otocarpum

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.