Five Stages of the Cotton Plant: From Bloom to Harvest

The cotton plant is one of the most intriguing and interesting agricultural staples out there for a number of reasons. Not only is it beautiful to observe for nearly its entire maturation cycle, it’s also interesting in how it develops from bloom to the final open boll. Let’s take a look at each stage of the cotton plant’s development, starting with the initial bloom.

  1. It all starts with a white flowering bloom that signals the first of many steps to come. The flower is usually small and simple: pure white with a few segments of petals that open. White flowers will usually only stick around for about 24 hours or so, so if you’re interested in catching this short-lived stage, it’s important to pay close attention to your field on a daily basis! And while this stage may come and go quickly, at this point, we’re a long way from cotton harvesting!
  2. Once the white flower blooms, it self pollinates. In just the matter of a day, that white flower will become a pink color and will continue to open fully. The end result of this stage is a flower that’s generally a vibrant fuchsia color or even a near-purple hue. This stage can last another couple of days, but typically it’ll only be something you’ll see for another 24-36 hours.
  3. At this next stage, the once beautiful cotton flower is going to quickly wither and die. It’ll shrivel up, turn brown and start to flake or fall off. Don’t worry, your cotton plant isn’t dying! Instead, it’s going through a major transformation as the boll begins to take shape. If you have an especially windy day or grow in a drier climate, you’re liable to find your field absolutely littered with dead blooms as the bulk of your field matures in sync.
  4. As the developing boll grows larger and larger, it’ll eventually turn from green to purple to brown. When it reaches the pinnacle of its size, the bracts dry and the boll itself cracks open. Over time, the bracts will continue to pull apart until the cotton becomes exposed.
  5. Finally, we have the open boll! A fully opened boll will look like a different kind of bloom—instead of petals opening up, however, you’re going to have cotton fiber spilling out. It’s at this point that harvest is usually immanent.

And so you have it: the life cycle of a cotton plant, from bloom to harvest! Anyone who has cropped cotton in the past is likely very familiar with each stage above, but it’s nice to see them laid out simply and thoroughly.

As a final note, make sure you’re using the lifespan of your cotton plants to your advantage. During the early stages of maturation, be sure to check over your cotton harvester parts, make any tune-ups to your harvester and be sure to run through startup services. By adhering to the cycle of the cotton plant, you’ll ensure you’re ready to harvest when the bulk of your field crop has reached its final stage and the open bolls are ready to be picked.

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