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China is the world's largest producer of cotton, but most of this is used domestically.
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This aspect is retained in the name for cotton in several Germanic languages, such as German Baumwolle, which translates as "tree wool" (Baum means "tree"; Wolle means "wool").
Noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep.
John Mandeville, writing in 1350, stated as fact the now-preposterous belief: "There grew there [India] a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches.
These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungry." (See Vegetable Lamb of Tartary.) By the end of the 16th century, cotton was cultivated throughout the warmer regions in Asia and the Americas.
It clothed the people of ancient India, Egypt, and China.