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10 Facts About Darwin’s Cotton in the Galapagos (Gossypium darwinii)

While exploring the Galapagos Islands we came across some Darwin’s cotton.

I had never seen a cotton plant before (not much cotton is grown in Canada) the only cotton I was familiar with was what comes in plastic bags at the beauty counter in the pharmacy or grocery store.

galapagos cotton

I was surprised to see how much the little cotton puffs on the plant looked like the cotton balls from the pharmacy.

It looked like you could just pluck them off of the bush and bag them, but I guess there is more to it than that unless you happen to be a finch.

Finches and other small birds use the cotton to line their nests.

10 Interesting Facts About Galapagos Cotton

  1. Darwin’s cotton is a cotton plant species that is only found on the Galapagos Islands (endemic).
  2. It is closely related to Gossypium barbadense (native American species). It likely arrived in the Galapagos via wind, sea, or bird droppings.
  3. The yellow flower of the Galapagos cotton shrub is the largest of any endemic or native plant in the Galapagos Islands.
  4. The Galapagos cotton seed can float for 10 weeks or longer in salt water, the embryo remaining unharmed.
  5. The Galapagos cotton shrub can grow up to 3 meters high.
  6. Galapagos cotton shrubs normally flower only after heavy rains.
  7. The seeds break open and produce the fluffy cotton.
  8. The scientific name is Gossypium darwinii.
  9. The biggest threat to Galapagos cotton is introduced livestock, which like to eat the plant.
  10. Darwin’s cotton is being actively replanted across the Islands, to combat invasive species. This is part of Galapagos Verde 2050.

So while it is being replanted across the Islands, its Red List status is listed as “Least Concerned”.

cotton flower plant
Yellow flower on the Galapagos cotton plant
darwins cotton flower
Unopened flower on Darwin’s cotton plant

Where to See Darwin’s Cotton

If you would like to catch a glimpse of the Galapagos cotton while exploring the Galapagos they are most easily found (according to the book Wildlife Of The Galapagos) here:

  • Isabela Island at Tagus Cove and Urvina Bay
  • Floreana Island at Post Office Bay
  • Santa Cruz Island at Airport Road
  • San Cristobal Island at Frigatebird Hill and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

We got these pictures on our way to Las Grietas, on Santa Cruz Island. It was along the trail between Angermeyer Point and Las Grietas.

Galapagos/Darwin’s Cotton used to be classified as a variance of Gossypium barbadense var. darwinii. But now it is described as a unique species: Gossypium darwinii

gossypium darwinii
Small cotton balls on a Galapagos cotton plant

Cotton on Mainland Ecuador

When we lived in southern Ecuador, there was a large cotton plant growing at the entrance to our friend’s house. Bryan, Drew, and I loved to watch it grow over the seasons.

And them pick handfuls of it when it was ready.

Have you seen cotton growing in the wild? Have you seen the unique Darwin’s cotton in the Galapagos?

darwins cotton
Closeup of Darwin’s cotton – fresh cotton ready to pick

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