Cotton has been used for countless years for a variety of purposes, but certainly one of the best known uses is as a raw material for clothing. The relatively small cotton plant consists of several identifiable parts inherent not only in the cotton species but plants in general.
The cotton plant's stem is the "tree" that helps the plant grow. The stem, also called a cane, usually grows in a bunch to around 3 feet in height. It is largely responsible for transporting nutrients from the soil to the branches where the actual cotton production takes place in bolls. The cotton plant's root system runs fairly deep for a plant of its size. The fibrous roots splay out in a semi-wide pattern.
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The plant produces a few leaves per branch that are interspersed between its cotton bolls. The leaves have three to seven lobes, giving them the appearance of small oak tree leaves. They are nearly double the size of the actual adult cotton bolls and may shade the bolls from the sun.
The tiny buds of growing bolls are called "squares" and there are generally three to five squares per branch of each plant. Each plant has different amounts of branches so each plant yields a different number of squares. A mature square becomes the puffy, white tuft or boll that is readily visible when picking time nears. Cotton plants planted in the spring will start sprouting bolls in early to mid-fall. Each boll is estimated to house around 300 cotton seeds and around 500,000 fibers.
Depending on the species, cotton plants can also produce notable flowers. The flowers are white in infancy, then turn pink and finally red before falling off. The flower petals help cover the growing square of the plant. The fallen leaves will expose a green pod that the boll will eventually grow out of.