Do you know why not many people have seen the mystery seeds from last week?

It is because they are usually covered with white, fluffy lint. The seeds were from the cotton plant, Gossypium hirsutum.

The cotton plant grows in warm climates throughout the world.

The flower is quite beautiful. I don’t know why it isn’t grown more frequently as a landscape plant.

You can see the relationship to other similar plants, hollyhocks and hibiscus.

After the flower is pollinated, it produces a boll.

The boll opens to expose the cotton,

which if you look closely…

is chock full of seeds! Thank goodness for cotton ginning, or our clothes would be rather lumpy 🙂

People have offered many ideas about why the cotton seeds are so fuzzy. Some ideas are that the lint helps move the seeds, either by wind (seems unlikely because the seeds are heavy) or by water. Others suggest that the lint attracts birds, which carry it and the seeds away to use in their nests. It is also possible the fuzzy lint protects the seeds from insect damage, although there are some insects that can still get through.

In any case, cotton is an interesting plant!

For more information, see:

Cotton Educational Resources includes Cotton: From Field to Fabric. Check the ride sidebar to go step by step through the process of harvesting cotton to making fabric.

Does cotton grow where you live?