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Gossypium barbadense - L.

Common Name Sea Island Cotton
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Not known in the wild
Range Western S. America.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Full sun
Gossypium barbadense Sea Island Cotton

Gossypium barbadense Sea Island Cotton


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Other known common names are as follows: Extra-long Staple (ELS) cotton, Egyptian cotton, Creole cotton, and pima cotton. Sea island cotton or Gossypium barbadense is a frost-sensitive, tropical, perennial plant with growing as a small and bushy tree of up to 3 m in height. It has yellow flowers and black seeds and it produces cotton with long and silky fibers. These fibers have a wide range of uses including making clothes, rubber-tyre fabrics, stuffing material for pillows and cushions, surgical dressing, twines and ropes, and carpets among others. The seeds are ground into flour and added to bakery products. It yield oil which is used in salads, canned goods, and manufactured into margarine. Root bark infusion is used in the treatment of irregular menstruation. The leaves are used for high blood pressure, abdominal cramps, menstrual problems, etc. The seeds are used for diarrhea and thrush.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Gossypium barbadense is an evergreen Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 2.5 m (8ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Gossypium acuminatum Roxb. ex G.Don Gossypium brasiliense MacFadyen. Gossypium evertum O.F.Cook & J.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Edible portion: Seeds, Leaves, Oil. Leaves - probably edible[301 ]. Seed - ground into a flour and added to bakery products [301 ]. An oil obtained from the seed is used in salads, canned goods and manufactured into margarine[301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Abortifacient  Analgesic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antipruritic  Antiviral  Diuretic  Emetic  Emmenagogue  
Hypotensive  Laxative  Pectoral  Poultice  Skin

The root is abortifacient, emetic and emmenagogue[348 ] An infusion of the root bark is used to treat difficult or irregular menstruation[348 ]. The pulverised roots are used to procure an abortion[348 ]. The stem bark is used in a preparation to strengthen the womb[348 ]. The leaves are antipruritic, diuretic and hypotensive[348 ]. Leaves of the red variety of cotton are used for treating high blood pressure; abdominal cramps and pain; menstrual problems; painful ovaries; and difficult expulsion of afterbirth[348 ]. Applied externally, the leaves are macerated in oil to make a poultice that is used to soothe an overheated person[348 ]. An infusion of the leaf juice is used to treat skin rash and children's cramps[348 ]. The juice from macerated leaves is used as wash to treat itchy skin[348 ]. Juice from the macerated leaves is warmed and used as a medicament for 'bush yaws'[348 ]. The flower buds are used as an auricular analgesic[348 ]. The seeds are crushed, and the juice given to babies as a treatment for thrush[348 ]. The seed fibres are laxative and pectoral[348 ]. They are used to treat diarrhoea and thrush[348 ]. Applied externally, they are used to make a dressing on wounds[348 ]. The pressed cotton cake contains gossypol, which is used clinically as a male contraceptive[348 ]. Gossypol is a toxic polyphenolic bisesquiterpene which may have antifertility and antiviral properties[348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Fibre  Oil  String  Stuffing

Other Uses: The fibre obtained from the seed floss is the longest of any cotton species[46 ]. It is 3 - 5cm long, strong and of excellent quality[46 ]. Cotton fibres have a wide range of used including making clothes; rubber-tyre fabrics; stuffing material for pillows, cushions etc; surgical dressings; making twine and ropes; carpets etc[46 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: fiber.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Regional Crop  Staple Crop: Oil

Sea Island cotton can be grown in the dry to moist tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 1,500 metres. For commercial production it requires a climate that has a long, hot growing season with abundant moisture, followed by a drier period for harvesting the seed floss[200 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 32°c, but can tolerate 15 - 38?c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 1,250mm, but tolerates 500 - 1,500mm[418 ]. Prefers a very sunny position in a light, fertile soil[200 ]. Plants can tolerate a range of well-drained soils, including moderate levels of salt[418 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.2 - 7.2, tolerating 5 - 8.5[418 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[418 ]. Suitable for growing indoors. Carbon Farming - Cultivation: regional crop. Management: standard, coppice. Perennial cotton has longer fibres and is considered superior to annual cottons. Perennial cottons are suited to arid and humid conditions while annual cottons were bred for colder climates and for mechanical harvesting. Perennial cottons are cultivated in the tropics on a smaller scale and include Gossypium arboreum burmanicum, Gossypium arboreum indicum, Gossypium arboreum soudanense, Gossypium barbadense braziliense, Gossypium barbadense darwinii, Gossypium herbaceum acerifolium, Gossypium herbaceum africanum, Gossypium hirsutum marie-galante, Gossypium hirsutum punctatum, Gossypium hirsutum taitense. Currently perennial cottons are harvested by hand. Researching perennial cottons varieties and production methods would help develop them as good carbon farming plants and help to alleviate the terrible problems caused by annual cottons.

Carbon Farming

  • Industrial Crop: Fiber  Clothing, rugs, sheets, blankets etc. Currently, almost none of our fiber are produced from perennial crops but could be!
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Regional Crop  These crops have been domesticated and cultivated regionally but have not been adopted elsewhere and are typically not traded globally, Examples in this broad category include perennial cottons and many nuts and staple fruits.
  • Staple Crop: Oil  (0-15 percent protein, 16+ percent oil). Some of these are consumed whole while others are exclusively pressed for oil. Annuals include canola, poppyseed, maize, cottonseed, sunflower, peanut. Perennials include high-oil fruits, seeds, and nuts, such as olive, coconut, avocado, oil palm, shea, pecan, and macadamia. Some perennial oil crops are consumed whole as fruits and nuts, while others are exclusively pressed for oil (and some are used fresh and for oil).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

From herbaceous stem cuttings From seed; sow indoors before last frost Seed Collecting: Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Algodon, Fai-tet, Hai dao mian, Kidney cotton, Peruvain cotton, Pima cotton, Te baubau, algodoeiro, algodoeiro-americano, algodon, algodonero de las barbados, algodão, algodón, american pima cotton, american-egyptian cotton, brazilian cotton, coton des indes occidentales, cotonnier d'egypte, cottonseed oil (unhydrogenated), egyptian cotton, gallini cotton, kidney cotton, long-staple cotton, peruvian cot, uruch,

Ecuador; Peru; Argentina; Paraguay; Brazil; Colombia, Africa, Asia, Australia, Belize, China, East Africa, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, Guiana, Guyana, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Kiribati, Mozambique, Nauru, Nicaragua, North America, Pacific, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, PNG, Puerto Rico, SE Asia, Sierra Leone, South America, Suriname, Tajikistan, Thailand, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Africa, West Indies, Zambia,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Gossypium arboreumTree CottonShrub5.0 10-12 FLMHNM214
Gossypium herbaceumLevant cottonShrub1.2 9-12 FLMSNM334
Gossypium hirsutumUpland CottonShrub2.0 5-10 FLMHNM214

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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