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Gossypium hirsutum - L.

Common Name Upland Cotton
Family Malvaceae
USDA hardiness 5-10
Known Hazards Some forms of this plant contain the toxin gossypol - glandless cultivars are free of this toxin[301 ].
Habitats Not known
Range Central America, north to southern N. America and the Caribbean.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Gossypium hirsutum Upland Cotton

Gossypium hirsutum Upland Cotton
Drew Avery wikimedia.org


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Gossypium hirsutum is a SHRUB growing to 2 m (6ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant is not wind tolerant.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Oil  Seed
Edible Uses: Oil

Seed - cooked. The seeds contain up to 40% protein, they have a nutty flavour when roasted and can be eaten as a snack[301 ]. They are also boiled and used like rice in casseroles and soups[301 ]. Ground into a powder, they can be added to flour when making bread, cakes etc[301 ]. They can also be made into a spread similar to peanut butter[301 ]. Some forms of this plant produce seeds containing the toxin gossypol, which needs to be removed before the seed is eaten[301 ]. The seeds of glandless cultivars do not contain this toxin[301 ]. An oil obtained from the seed is used for salads, in cooking and to make margarine etc[301 , 418 ]. Carbon Farming - Staple Crop: oil.

References   More on Edible Uses

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.

The boiled leaves are applied to skin rashes on children[348 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses


Agroforestry Uses: Low-grade seed cake, after the oil has been expressed, is used as manure[418 ].. Other Uses A good quality fibre is obtained from the seed floss[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 ]. An oil is obtained from the seed. Low-grades of the oil are used in the manufacture of soap, lubricants, sulphonated oils and protective coatings[418 ]. The seed hulls and the dry stalks are used as fuel[418 ]. Carbon Farming. Industrial Crop: fiber. Other Systems: strip intercrop.

Special Uses

Carbon Farming

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Industrial Crop: Fiber  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Other Systems: Strip intercrop  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 1,250 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 ]. Low temperature increases the production of vegetative branches and extends the cropping period, while high temperature increases the number of fruiting branches and reduces the cropping period. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 22 - 36°c, but can tolerate 15 - 42°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 750 - 1,200mm, but tolerates 450 - 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 - 7.5, tolerating 5 - 9.5[418 ]. Requires a position sheltered from strong winds[418 ]. The plant is usually cultivated as an annual, taking 150 - 220 days to mature a crop[418 ]. Seed-cotton yields vary between 0.8 - 3 tonnes/ha, or 0.2 - 1.1 tonnes/ha of fibre[418 ]. 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.
  • Other Systems: Strip intercrop  Tree crops grown in rows with alternating annual crops.
  • 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

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed. In zones 8-10 it can be sown directly after the last frost. In zones 5-7, treat like tomatoes. Seed germinates in 7-21 days at 70 F. Plant 18-30 in. apart in rows 5 ft. apart. Plants start flowering in mid-summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Upland cotton or Mexican cotton,

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.

None Known

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 herbaceumLevant cottonShrub1.2 9-12 FLMSNM334

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

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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