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Vegetable Lambs

Plant Born Sheep, The Medieval Idea Of Cotton           

     Have you seen the Demonstration Garden’s flock of “vegetable lambs?”  Tended with loving care by Dallas County Master Gardener Jim and other DCMG volunteers, they thrive in the Garden’s raised beds.  Though we now know these “vegetable lambs” by their contemporary name, cotton, during the medieval period in Europe, cotton was an imported fiber and the actual plant that produced it was unknown.  So, noting its similarities to wool, people imagined that cotton must have been produced by plant-born sheep.  In 1350 John Mandeville, after a trip to Tartary, wrote: “There grew there (India) a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the ends of its branches.  These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie (sic).”   Later in 1791 Dr. De la Croix in his work Connubia Florum, Latino Carmine Demonstrata  wrote of the vegetable lamb:

  Upon a stalk is fixed a living brute,                       Early Understanding Of Cotton Plants

  A rooted plant bears quadruped for fruit.

  It is an animal that sleeps by day

  And wakes at night, though rooted in the ground,

  To feed on grass within its reach around.

     Today’s scientific classification of cotton is, of course, much different from the zoophyte (i.e. an animal that visually resembles a plant) classification of the medieval period.  The name of the genus derives from the Arabic word goz, which refers to a soft substance. 

It is particularly interesting that cotton is in the Mallow family and is related to hibiscus.  This resemblance can be seen easily in cotton’s flowers.  Cultivated cotton is a perennial shrub.  However it is grown in our area as an annual.  Plants are around 3-5 feet tall with broad three to five lobed leaves.  The seeds are contained in capsules called a “boll.”  The many seeds found in a boll are surrounded by two types of cotton fiber.  The longer fiber can be spun into thread and ultimately cloth, while the much shorter fibers, called “linters,” are spun into low quality fiber, giving rise to the term “lint.”  Cotton requires a long growing period, full sun, moderate water and likes heavy soil.  If this sounds like a perfect plant for the Dallas area, it is—- and is why cotton fields used to be numerous throughout DallasCounty.  There are several different naturally occurring colors of cotton (white, brown, and green) and the DemonstrationGarden grows brown cotton and several different varieties of white cotton.

White Cotton And Brown Cotton Grown At The Demonstration Garden

     So the next time you visit the DemonstrationGarden, try standing by the cotton plants, closing your eyes, and just “Believe.”  If you listen closely, maybe you will hear the vegetable lambs say “baaaa.” 

       ***this is the first of several articles on cotton: the plant, its history, spinning and dyeing



A Summer’s Day

Take a close up view of these easy flowering plants for a sunny, summer garden.  Our Entry Garden is full of drought tolerant plants that fulfill the goal of being part of the non picky plant’s brigade.  Hooray for the plants that do it all for you and request so little water in return!  

Woolly Stemodia– a dependable, ground hugging stalwart. 

 Wooly Stemodia with a little blue bloom


Butterfly Weed– a nectar source for butterflies.

Butterfly Weed


Desert Willow-seductive, trumpet-shaped  blooms for hummingbirds.

Desert Willow magenta blooms


 Periwinkles-the Cora variety is disease resistant,  loves the heat  and has a more uniform habit  than other periwinkles. It looks great all season and into fall. Many colors to try!

Periwinkles in front of stick verbena, zexmenia, and cosmos


Abeilia-foliage with a punch, this is the Frances Mason variety. The leaves turn from several  colors of yellow to a coppery color in the fall.

Abielia foliage with white bloom


Our New Blog

 Looking Down the Path to our Garden


Hello,  and welcome to the new blog for the Earth Kind® WaterWise Demonstration Garden on Joe Field Road. We have changed our name, but not our mission.  You may have known us formerly as the Bloomin’ Blog on Joe Field Road, we can now be found as  You can help us by subscribing to our blog and passing our name along to others.

Though we are changing our web address to, you will find the same gardening advice and love of gardening. Our physical address has not changed. The  Earth Kind® Water Wise Demonstration Garden is located at 2311 Joe Field Road, Dallas, Texas 75229 in the heart of the Northwest industrial  area of Dallas near Royal Lane and Stemmons Freeway.

Drop in on a Tuesday morning or contact us for an appointment.  Even better, bring a group for a field trip to our gardens.  We would love for you to see our gardens.

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