Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Cotton, a soft, fluffy staple fibre that grows in a pro­tect­ive cap­sule around seeds of plants of the genus Gossypium, is con­ver­ted into the world’s most widely used natural-fibre cloth. But its pre-eminent pos­i­tion may soon be chal­lenged by pineapple-derived fab­ric if Jamil Salleh [Associate Professor and tex­tile tech­no­lo­gist at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia] is suc­cess­ful. Salleh’s pro­ject aims to assess tech­niques to extract the long fibres of the leaves of pine­apple (Ananas comosus), which have been woven into fab­ric in south-east Asia for many years. Although demand for pine­apple fibres is unlikely to rival the demand for cot­ton fibres, this ini­ti­at­ive could be a prof­it­able way of deal­ing with leaves left over after the pine­apples have been har­ves­ted, and is argu­ably a more envir­on­ment­ally respons­ible use than simply burn­ing them. So, in a new twist on an old adage, this could be a case of riches from ‘rags’ (for so the ill-informed describe cou­ture cloth­ing). However, let us hope that any resur­gence in demand for bromeliad-based fab­rics does not threaten the provid­ing spe­cies with extinc­tion, as seems to be a ser­i­ous con­cern for other eco­nom­ic­ally import­ant plants else­where in the Pacific . 

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

2 Responses

  1. Banana and flax are both multi-purpose crops as well. Banana leaves are used extens­ively as dis­pos­able plates in Asia, and for roof­ing through­out the trop­ics. Banana fibres — either from the edible spe­cies, or more often from the close rel­at­ive Musa tex­tilis grown spe­cific­ally for the fibre — are known as Manila or abaca or cohu hemp. Manila paper, as in the eponym­ous envel­opes, and ropes were ori­gin­ally the major use. Now the spe­cial qual­it­ies of the fibre — dur­ab­il­ity, flex­ib­il­ity and chem­ical or salt res­ist­ance — mean the fibre is restric­ted to very high value uses such as Japanese bank­notes, tea-bags and fil­ter papers. I have a pair of abaca trousers, bought in England, and shirts are also avail­able, although unfor­tu­nately I have only seen them on sale in a rather fetch­ing shade of pink!

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