Thurber's Cotton or Desert Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) bushes are common in the mountain foothills around Tucson and in Sabino Canyon. These native shrubs are close relatives of cultivated cotton (Gossypium spp.) and unfortunately share many of their pests like the Pink Bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella).
Thurber's Cotton has beautiful, cup-shaped, white flowers which may be tinged with pink.
Many, but not all of the flowers will have pink splotches at the base of the five, broad petals. Each flower has a large central filament tube which is characteristic of plants in the Mallow Family (Malvaceae) like hibiscus or cotton. Thurber's Cotton blooms from August to October.
The flowers are followed by large, round seed capsules that split open into 3 to 5 sections to reveal seeds with only a few cotton fibers.
Because of its paltry cotton fiber production, this species of cotton is not grown commercially.
The dark green, palmate leaves have 3 or 5 pointed lobes and are up to 7 inches (18 cm) long.
In the autumn, some, but not all of the leaves will turn a brilliant scarlet red before falling.