Gossypium arboreum: Tree cotton

Family: Malvaceae
Common name: Tree cotton, Cotton

Tree cotton is a species of cotton plant native to the Indian subcontinent, widely cultivated for its fibers and ornamental value. This small shrub-like plant can reach a height of about 2 to 3 meters with a woody stem that is sturdy and upright.

The stem is covered with a layer of bark, which provides support and protection to the plant. It branches out very well, forming a compact, well-rounded, bushy structure.

The leaves of Tree cotton are broad and lobed, measuring around 10-15 cm in length. They are deep green in color and are arranged alternately along the stem. These leaves are covered with small hairs, giving them a fuzzy appearance.

Tree cotton plant produces attractive flowers that are typically white or pale yellow in color, turning lavendar or light purple as they mature. The flowers have a funnel-shaped structure with five petals, and are about 3-4 cm in diameter. The flowers mostly bloom during summer and spring attracting pollinators with their bright colors.

Once pollinated, the flowers produce fruits that are three- or four-celled capsules measuring 1.5 to 2.5 cms. They are ovoid or oblong with a pitted surface and small, sharp beaks at the tips. The seeds within are globular and are covered in long white cotton.

Once the fruits mature, the cotton bolls which contain the plant’s fiber are exposed like little fluffs attached to the fruit.

Tree cotton plants can be grown in a variety of climates, but they thrive well in warm and tropical regions. They require full sun exposure to ensure proper growth and flowering, along with well-drained soil. Regular watering is necessary, especially during summer months.

Applying a balanced fertilizer during the growing season can promote healthy growth. Make sure to trim the plants after flowering season to stimulate new growth and encourage the development of more flowers.

Seeds of the tree cotton plant contain oil, which are sometimes used as a substitutes for olive oil. The root is used for treating fever, and parts of the leaves are used in cosmetic preparations. Fibers from the fruit are used for making clothes, stuffing for pillows, carpets, ropes, twines, cushions, lamp wicks, and surgical dressings.

Propagation can be done through both seeds and cuttings. Collect the mature cotton bolls and separate the seeds from the fibers. Sow the seeds in pots or directly into the garden soil, ensuring a depth of about 1 cm, spacing them adequately. Keep the soil moist until germination occurs, usually around 7 to 10 days.

For propagation through cuttings, take stem cuttings from healthy plants and place them in a well-draining rooting medium. Provide warmth and humidity to encourage root formation.