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 .
About the author
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.