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Gossypium \Gos*syp"i*um\, n. [NL., fr. L. gossypion, gossipion.] (Bot.) A genus of plants which yield the cotton of the arts. The species are much confused. G. herbaceum is the name given to the common cotton plant, while the long-stapled sea-island cotton is produced by G. Barbadense, a shrubby variety. There are several other kinds besides these.


Gossypium is the cotton genus. It belongs to the tribe Gossypieae, in the mallow family, Malvaceae, native to the tropical and subtropical regions from both the Old and New World. The genus Gossypium comprises around 50 species, making it the largest in species number in the tribe Gossypieae. New species continue to be discovered. The name of the genus is derived from the Arabic word goz, which refers to a soft substance.

Cotton is the primary natural fibre used by modern humans. Cultivated cotton is also a major oilseed crop, as well as a main protein source for animal feed. Cotton plants thus have an enormous weight in the world economy and are of great importance for the agriculture, industry and trade of many tropical and subtropical countries in Africa, South America and Asia. Consequently, the genus Gossypium has long attracted the attention of scientists.

The origin of the genus Gossypium is dated to around 5-10 million years ago. Gossypium species are distributed in arid to semiarid regions of the tropics and subtropics. Generally shrubs or shrub-like plants, the species of this genus are extraordinarily diverse in morphology and adaptation, ranging from fire-adapted, herbaceous perennials in Australia to trees in Mexico.

Cultivated cottons are perennial shrubs most often grown as annuals. Plants are 1–2 m high in modern cropping systems, sometimes higher in traditional, multiannual cropping systems, now largely disappearing. The leaves are broad and lobed, with three to five (or rarely seven) lobes. The seeds are contained in a capsule called a "boll", each seed surrounded by fibres of two types. These fibres are the more commercially interesting part of the plant and they are separated from the seed by a process called ginning. At the first ginning, the longer fibres, called staples, are removed and these are twisted together to form yarn for making thread and weaving into high quality textiles. At the second ginning, the shorter fibres, called "linters", are removed, and these are woven into lower quality textiles (which include the eponymous Lint). Commercial species of cotton plant are G. hirsutum (>90% of world production), G. barbadense (3-4%), G. arboreum and G. herbaceum (together, 2%). Many varieties of cotton have been developed by selective breeding and hybridization of these species. Experiments are ongoing to cross-breed various desirable traits of wild cotton species into the principal commercial species, such as resistance to insects and diseases, and drought tolerance. Cotton fibres occur naturally in colours of white, brown, green, and some mixing of these.

Most wild cottons are diploid, but a group of five species from America and Pacific islands are tetraploid, apparently due to a single hybridization event around 1.5 to 2 million years ago. The tetraploid species are G. hirsutum, G. tomentosum, G. mustelinum, G. barbadense, and G. darwinii.

Usage examples of "gossypium".

Brassica oleracea, circumnutation of the radicle, of the arched hypocotyl whilst still buried beneath the ground, whilst rising above the ground and straightening itself, and when erect--Circumnutation of the cotyledons--Rate of movement--Analogous observations on various organs in species of Githago, Gossypium, Oxalis, Tropaeolum, Citrus, Aesculus, of several Leguminous and Cucurbitaceous genera, Opuntia, Helianthus, Primula, Cyclamen, Stapelia, Cerinthe, Nolana, Solanum, Beta, Ricinus, Quercus, Corylus, Pinus, Cycas, Canna, Allium, Asparagus, Phalaris, Zea, Avena, Nephrodium, and Selaginella.

There are, however, some strong exceptions to this rule, as the cotyledons of Gossypium, Anoda and Ipomoea do not possess pulvini, yet continue to move and to grow for a long time.

Still more striking is the fact that, in the same genus, the leaves of several or of all the species may sleep, but the cotyledons of only some of them, as occurs with Trifolium, Lotus, Gossypium, and partially with Oxalis.

However, prehistoric South American farmers instead grew the related cotton Gossypium barbadense.