Cotton

Cotton comes from cultivated plants from the genus Gossypium. They have been cultivated since ancient times for their fibres which are used as textiles. Cotton has other, more surprising uses too from medicines and mattresses to seed oil and even sausage skins.
Watercolour showing cotton tree flowers and boll, painted 1790-1812.
What we wear
Cotton is used to make over 40% of the world's textiles. India and Pakistan are two of the top producing countries.
Environmental hazard
Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world, but a new generation of initiatives now support organic cotton growing. These organic plantations are an attempt to move away from large mono crops and they aim to promote fair trade.
Spinning politics
A portable cotton spinning machine was designed by Mahatma Ghandi for the independence movement where the revival of village economies was seen as important. Ghandi's spinning wheel is still used in India today.
Vegetable lambs
In the Middle Ages many believed cotton came from 'vegetable lambs' dangling from trees in India. Fake cotton lambs made their way into museums.