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Gossypium herbaceum - L.

Common Name Short-Staple American Cotton (Cotton )
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards The plant, and especially the oil from the seed, contains gossypol. It is believed that this substance, when ingested, causes reduced sperm levels and infertility in men[238 , 254 ].
Habitats Not known in the wild
Range Probably originating in S. Africa, it is only known in cultivation.
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Gossypium herbaceum Short-Staple American Cotton (Cotton )
Gossypium herbaceum Short-Staple American Cotton (Cotton )


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Gossypium herbaceum or commonly known as Short-Staple American Cotton or Levant Cotton is a perennial shrub native to sub-Saharan Africa and Arabia. It grows up to 6 ft high with wide, hairy leaves. The flowers are small and yellow with a purple center. The plant is a minor source of cotton fibre used for making clothes, rubber-type fabrics, stuffing material for pillows and cushions, surgical dressings, twine and ropes, and carpets. The seeds are edible when roasted; it can be used as a coffee substitute. The seed also produces oil that can be used in salads or as cooking oil. The oil contains gossypol, a substance that has an effect of lowering sperm production and possibly causing infertility in males. The seeds can also be used medicinally particularly for dysentery, intermittent fever, fibroids, herpes, scabies, wounds, and orchitis. The root bark is used for painful menstruation and to encourage milk flow in nursing mothers. The leaves are taken internally for gastroenteritis, thrush, scalds, bruises, and sores. Plant stems can be made into paper.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Gossypium herbaceum is a SHRUB growing to 1.2 m (4ft) by 1.2 m (4ft in) at a fast rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Edible portion: Seeds, Leaves, Oil. Seed - roasted[301 ]. The roasted seed can be used as a coffee substitute[301 ]. An oil is obtained from the seed[301 ]. Used in salads or as a cooking oil[301 ]. The oil is also used in the manufacture of margarines, vegetable shortenings, lard substitutes etc[46 ]. The oil contains a substance called gossypol which is believed to lower male fertility and cause infertility[238 ]. The gossypol is usually removed before the oil is used for edible purposes[238 ]. Leaves[301 ]. Carbon Farming - Staple Crop: oil.


Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Cotton is an astringent, slightly acidic, aromatic herb that causes uterine contractions, depresses sperm production, lowers fever, reduces inflammation and soothes irritated tissue[238 ]. It also has antiviral and antibacterial actions[238 ]. The root bark contains gossypol and flavonoids[254 ]. It is seldom used in modern herbalism, but has been used as a milder and safer alternative to ergot (Claviceps purpurea) for inducing uterine contractions in order to speed a difficult labour[254 ]. It can induce an abortion or the onset of a period, and reduces total menstrual flow[254 ]. It has also been taken internally in the treatment of painful menstruation[238 ]. The root bark also encourages an increased milk flow in nursing mothers and blood clotting[254 ]. The roots are harvested at the end of the growing season, peeled and dried[238 ]. The seeds are taken internally in the treatment of dysentery, intermittent fever and fibroids[238 ]. Externally, the seeds are used to treat herpes, scabies, wounds and orchitis[238 ]. The oil obtained from the seed contains a substance known as gossypol. This has the effect of lowering sperm production and possibly causing infertility in males[238 ]. Research has been carried out into its potential use as a male contraceptive[238 ]. It can be used to reduce heavy menstrual flow and in the treatment of endometriosis[254 ]. The leaves are taken internally in the treatment of gastroenteritis[238 ]. Externally, the leaves are used to treat thrush, scalds, bruises and sores[238 ]. The leaves are harvested as required during the growing season[238 ].


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Edible Shrubs provides detailed information, attractively presented, on over 70 shrub species. They have been selected to provide a mix of different plant sizes and growing conditions. Most provide delicious and nutritious fruit, but many also have edible leaves, seeds, flowers, stems or roots, or they yield edible or useful oil.

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Other Uses


Other Uses: The floss contained in the seedpod is used to make fibre for clothing and many other applications[238 ]. 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 ]. The plant stems can be used for making paper[46 ]. A semi-drying oil obtained from the seeds is used for making soap[46 , 238 ]. The oil cake residue can be used as a fertilizer[46 ]. Yellow and brown dyes can be obtained from the petals[46 ]. Carbon Farming - Industrial Crop: fiber.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming


Cultivation details

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

Short-staple American cotton can be grown in the dry to moist tropics and subtropics, where it is found at elevations up to 2,200 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 26 - 36c, but can tolerate 18 - 38c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 1,250mm, but tolerates 200 - 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 6 - 7.2, tolerating 5.3 - 8.5[418 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[418 ]. Flowering Time: Late Spring/Early Summer Mid Summer Late Summer/Early Fall. Bloom Color: Bright Yellow. Spacing: 9-12 in. (22-30 cm). 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).


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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

Arabian cotton, Cao mian, Khun, Levant cotton, Maltese cotton, algodao, algodoeiro, algodoeiro-asiático, algodonero, algodonero herbáceo ,algodão, algodón, ambara, anagnika, arabian cotton, arale, arali, badar, baumwolle, binaula, bona, cao, mian, chvya, common cotton, coton, cotone, cotonnier, cotonnier d'asie, cotonnier herbacé, cotton, cotton plant seed, gewöhnliche baumwolle, gossypium herbaceum, habb-ul-qutn, hati, iladamoarutti, indian cotton, indisk bomull, kapas, kapasa, kapasia, kapastula, karpas, karpasa, karpasam, karpasamu ,karpasasarini, karpasi, karpasu, karppasam, kirpasa, kkoottam, kopa, korpasu, krautiger baumwollstrauch, kupas, karpasa (seed), levant cotton, maltese cotton, pambadana, panji, panji karpasam, paruthi, parutti, parutti kkoottam, paththi, patt, patti ginga, pattiginga, pilya, ru, rui, sarki, shiro-bana-wata, short-staple cotton, syri, tula, tundakesi, tu??akesi, vona

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Afghanistan, Africa, Asia, Australia, Botswana, China, East Africa, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Indochina, Iran, Mediterranean, Mozambique, Namibia, North America,

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 barbadenseSea Island CottonShrub3.0 10-12 FLMNM324
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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Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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