Flower Tales: Wild Cotton

By Kings Camp Team on May 9, 2023

The History of Wild Cotton

Note: This marks the fourth insert of our monthly flower-themed blog posts.

Wild cotton (Gossypium herbaceum) is a plant species belonging to the Malvaceae family and is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the world. The origin of wild cotton is believed to be in Africa, although it is also found in other parts of the world like India and Pakistan.

It is a hardy plant that can grow in arid regions with little rainfall, preferring warm temperatures and well-drained soils like we have here at Kings Camp.

This shrub grows in our country’s veld, particularly in the grasslands and savannas of KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. It can grow up to 3m tall, and has green, lobed leaves and purple or yellow flowers. The fruit of the wild cotton is a capsule that contains seeds covered in fibres.

These fibres have been used by many ancient civilizations, who spun them into threads for woven fabrics. The oldest cotton fabric has been found in Peru and dates back to 5000 BCE. Egyptians also used cotton for clothing and mummification.

Today, wild cotton is not commonly grown for commercial use, but small scale farmers in Africa, India, and Pakistan still cultivate it for subsistence purposes. Wild cotton can be used for the production of cottonseed oil and livestock feed. The fibre from wild cotton is also used to make traditional clothing and handicrafts.

Wild Cotton in South Africa

Wild cotton is an important plant species in South Africa. It has been historically used by indigenous people for medicinal and cultural practices. Its strong and durable fibre made it an ideal material for making baskets, mats, fishing nets, and other household items. It also played a significant role in the religious and ceremonial rituals of some cultures.

Apart from its commercial uses, wild cotton is also known for its medicinal properties. In ancient times, wild cotton was used to treat a variety of ailments such as fever, dysentery, and joint pain. The leaves of wild cotton have also been found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The Cotton We Use Today

The cultivation of wild cotton played a significant role in the evolution of modern-day cotton production. Through centuries of selective breeding, humans have developed cotton plants that have longer and stronger fibres, higher yields, and resistance to diseases and pests.

Wild cotton served as the foundation for the domestication of the plant and the creation of the cotton that we know today. The modern process of cotton cultivation utilized today is heavily based on the research and activities of 18th and 19th-century farmers, of which, would have been mostly related to Gossypium hirsutum and Gossypium barbadense strains. Overall, the long history and diverse applications of wild cotton have contributed to the development of the modern cotton industry, even though it’s no longer a significant contributor in the production process.

About Kings Camp

Kings Camp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa, is an exclusive safari lodge offering guests a unique African safari experience.

Located in the heart of Big 5 game country, the lodge spreads out beneath a canopy of ancient trees and offers guests a peaceful and serene atmosphere in which to reconnect with nature.

Guests can enjoy all-inclusive luxury accommodation as well as thrilling game drives in open vehicles which offer special access to encounter some of Africa’s most beloved wildlife. Additionally, there are various activities available throughout the day such as guided bush walks and bird watching tours to discover even more wonders that this captivating landscape has to offer. All of this creates an unforgettable adventure for any guest looking to connect with Mother Nature in one of her most extraordinary settings.

Stay with us

If you’re interested in inquiring about accommodation options at Kings Camp, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly reservations team directly at or use our online booking system.

Join us for a bespoke safari experience you’ll never forget!

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