Abaca (Musa textilis) is a tree-like herb resembling the banana in appearance.  The leaves of abaca are upright, pointed, tapering and narrow; and its trunk is noted to be smaller than the banana’s.  Its fruit is banana-like, small, inedible and full of seeds.

Abaca grows to a height of about 4.6-7.7 meters. The true stem of the plant is the part that bears the heart-shaped fruit with a diameter of about 5 centimeter.  The trunk is formed by this stem and thickened by stalks of the leaves, which turn reddish brown at maturity.

The plant has wide leaves of fleshy, fiberless core surrounded by overlapping leaf sheaths starting from the base and extending nearly to the top.  Each sheath is composed of three layers: an outer layer from which most of the fiber is obtained; the middle layer which contains some fine white fiber of flower with more tensile strength than that of the outer layer; and the inner layer which contains no fiber.

Abaca fiber is more widely considered as the world’s best cordage material due to its durability and resistance to salt decomposition.  It is claimed to be stronger than the real hemp and is three times stronger than cotton.  Harvesting of raw materials provides economic benefits to the communities where the plant grows abundantly.


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