The Abaca plant
belongs to the family of the banana plant (Musaceae family) and is indigenous to the Philippines. The banana plant and the abaca plant has a striking similarity in looks but the main difference is that the fruit of the abaca plant is inedible. Its fibre is known as the Manila Hemp. Abaca is not a hemp but since hemp was the main source of fibres for centuries, the abaca fibre was named Manila hemp. Abaca has been cultivated in the Philippines since the 1500s and became known worldwide in the 1800s mainly used as ropes in ship rigging.
The abaca plant grows up to twenty feet when mature. About 2 to 4 times a year the trunk is cut down above the roots to harvest the fibres. New sprouts will grow from the roots soon after cutting. Leaf sheaths are then stripped and pulp is scrapped off to get the abaca fibre strands. To make ropes, the strands are twisted together. These strands are mainly composed of cellulose, pectin and lignin.
Superior qualities of abaca fibre:
-Extremely strong and durable
-Resistant to salt water
-Can be made into many hard-wearing products
-Relatively cheap to produce
-Has a beautiful texture when made into hats and other products
-Biodegradable and eco-friendly
Products made from abaca fibre / Manila hemp:
Rope, abaca paper abaca rug, abaca furniture, abaca dye mat, abaca carpet, manila envelope and countless other products.