Sunday, September 16, 2007

In High Cotton

Did you ever wonder what "in high cotton" means? If you ever had to pick cotton, you would not be puzzled. The higher the cotton, the less you need to bend to pick it and the less your back will ache. If you're in high cotton, life is good!

Driving into work at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest, we pass several cotton fields. This morning's sunlight filtering through the clouds drew our attention to the yellow and pink blossoms of the cotton plants and encouraged us to stop and take some pictures.

Here's what we learned about the the life cycle of the cotton plant from Cotton's Journey:

Approximately five to seven weeks after planting, small flower buds called squares will appear on the cotton plant. As this square develops, the bud swells and begins to push through the bracts (leaf-like parts) until it opens into an attractive flower. Within three days, the flower will pollinate (the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma of the same or another flower) itself, change from a creamy white or yellow color to a pinkish red, and then wither and fall, exposing a small, green, immature cotton boll (a segmented pod containing 32 immature seeds from which the cotton fibers will grow). This boll is considered a fruit because it contains seeds. As the fibers continue to grow and thicken within the segmented boll, it enlarges until it becomes approximately the size of a small fig. Now, the cotton fibers have become mature and thickened with their primary growth substance, cellulose (a carbohydrate, the chief component of the cell wall in most plants). An average boll will contain nearly 500,000 fibers of cotton and each plant may bear up to 100 bolls.

In about 140 days after planting or 45 days after bolls appear, the cotton boll will begin to naturally split open along the bolls segments or carpels and dry out, exposing the underlying cotton segments called locks. These dried carpels are known as the bur, and it's the bur that will hold the locks of cotton in place when fully dried and fluffed, ready for picking.

1 comment:

Swampy said...

Mike Burleson comment was inadvertently deleted:

Wow! Of course I've heard the term and new it meant something good, but what you wrote makes alot of sense! My Mom picked cotton as a sharecropper's daughter in the 30's and 40's. Says they would work all day, all the time praying for rain.