I only “noticed” this lovely shrub last week but it is another I have walked past many times. It grows by one of the main paths, set back in the border and has been masked by a showier thing until now, when it is coming into its own. The day I saw it, the low autumn sun was illuminating the tops of the spiky bracts, and I had no idea what it was. Sometimes I am amazed at my own ignorance because this plant has played an important and comforting part in my life. Allergic to wool and many other itchy scratchy fibres, cotton has been my very closest friend for as long as I can remember.
Had I seen a fluffy white “bol” first I think I would have guessed
but coming from northern climes I have never seen a cotton plant. I was interested to discover that Andalucia province, where we lived in Spain, has quite a large cotton growing area around Cordoba and Sevilla and that Spain was instrumental in the history of cotton as a commercial crop in America, the Spanish being the first Europeans to grown cotton near St Augustine in Florida in 1556.
Image from plants of Hawaii here
But I don’t really know how to write about cotton. I have already spent too long today reading about it and not working. It is the most wonderful plant with a fascinating early history dating back to 3000BC, but its more recent history is fraught with exploitation, slavery, and terrible working conditions, not only in the cotton fields but in Blake’s “dark satanic” cotton mills of the Industrial Revolution. Even now there are questions over its production, its ethical and green credentials. Buy organic if you can is the message. See Sustainablecotton.org here
From an artistic perspective this is a very beautiful plant and I am spending a couple of days with it. The leaves, the lovely big yellow flowers, the spiky bracts containing the buds and the seed pods are all fascinating.
Today I drew a leaf. It is big, 11 inches from top to toe and the lower lobes curl back on themselves…quite beautiful.
More tomorrow ..