Cotton plants are native to subtropical America and Asia. The plant is a small to medium sized one (shrub). It comes from several annual plants that belong to the mallow family. Their leaves are large, their blossoms white, yellow or purplish. Their fluff-filled pods are an endless source of fascination to people seeing them for the first time.
You have seen the fine hairs within a cotton plant pod. These fine hairs are a dispersal technique, a way of winging the seeds away from the parent. The cotton like fluff obtained from its seed pod is also known as kapok. Kapok is a soft, glossy fiber which is non absorbent and a poor conductor of heat. Its uses include filler for life jackets, sleeping bags and cold-weather clothing.
Cotton grows from a seed. After two months after planting, flower buds on the plants. These buds are called squares. In another few weeks, blossoms open. Their petals change from cream to red. In three days, petals wither and fall. Green pods called cotton bolls remain on the shrub. A cotton boll is a segmented pod containing 32 immature seeds from which the cotton fibers will grow. As it contains seeds, it is considered a fruit.
Moist fibers then grow and push out from the newly formed seeds. Finally they split apart and fluffy cotton bursts forth. The fibers continue to grow and thicken within the boll with their primary growth substance cellulose. When bolls star opening naturally, harvest aids are applied to the plant. This method speed up the maturation process.