Nelson, Elton G. National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, Maryland.
Last reviewed:March 2021
- Environment and cultivation
- Properties and uses
- Processing and production
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A plant, Musa textilis, of the banana family that is valuable for its hard fiber (also known as Manila hemp). Abaca (Musa textilis) is a flowering plant native to the Philippines and Borneo. Taxonomically, it is assigned to the order Zingiberales. Abaca is one of the strongest of the hard fibers. Commercially, it is known as Manila hemp. The fiber is obtained from the leafstalks of M. textilis, which is a member of the banana family. The plant (see illustration) resembles the fruiting banana plant, but it is a bit shorter in stature, bears small inedible fruits, and has leaves that stand more erect than those of the banana. Abaca leaves are also slightly narrower, more pointed, and about 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) in length. Relatives of abaca grow wild throughout Southeast Asia, but the plant was domesticated long ago in the southern Philippines. Plants that can yield fiber are grown in a few other parts of the world, chiefly Central America and Ecuador. Most commercial production comes from the Philippines and Ecuador. See also: Banana; Fiber crops; Natural fiber; Zingiberales
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