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December 2021

Did you know that the sisal fibers used to make ropes and related products come from the leaves of the Agave sisalana plant?

Sisal ( Agave sisalana).

Sisal - Agave sisalana

Sisal, with the botanical name Agave sisalana, is a species of flowering plant, belongs in the Asparagaceae family, native to southern Mexico but widely cultivated and naturalized in many other countries. It yields a stiff fibre used in making rope and various other products. The term sisal may refer either to the plant's common name or the fibre, depending on the context. The sisal fibre is traditionally used for rope and twine, and has many other uses, including paper, cloth, footwear, hats, bags, carpets, geotextiles, and dartboards. It is also used as fibre reinforcements for composite fibre-glass, rubber and cement products.

The native origin of Agave sisalana is uncertain. Traditionally it was deemed to be a native of the Yucatán Peninsula, but there are no records of botanical collections from there. They were originally shipped from the Spanish colonial port of Sisal in Yucatán (thus the name). The Yucatán plantations now cultivate henequen (Agave fourcroydes).

Agave sisalana is an evergreen, succulent plant. The plant stalk grows to about 90 cm (3 feet) in height, with a diameter of approximately 40 cm (15 inches). The lance-shaped leaves, growing out from the stalk in a large dense rosette, are fleshy and rigid, with gray to dark green colour. Each is 60–180 cm (2–6 feet) long and 10–18 cm (4–7 inches) across at the widest portion, terminating in a sharp spine. Young leaves may have a few minute teeth along their margins, but lose them as they mature. Within four to eight years after planting, the mature plant sends up a central flower stalk reaching about 6 metres (20 feet) in height. Yellow flowers, about 6 cm (2.5 inches) long and with an unpleasant odour, form dense clusters at the ends of branches growing from the flower stalk. As the flowers begin to wither, buds growing in the upper angle between the stem and flower stalk develop into small plants, or bulbils, that fall to the ground and take root. Like other Agave species, the old plant dies when flowering is completed.

The sisal plant has a 7-10 year life-span and typically produces 200-250 commercially usable leaves. Each leaf contains an average of around 1000 fibres. The fibres account for only about 4% of the plant by weight. Sisal is considered a plant of the tropics and subtropics, since production benefits from temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius and sunshine.

Sisal was used by the Aztecs and the Mayans to make fabrics and paper. In the 19th century, sisal cultivation spread to Florida, the Caribbean islands, and Brazil (Paraiba and Bahia), as well as to countries in Africa, notably Tanzania and Kenya, and Asia. Sisal reportedly "came to Africa from Florida, through the mechanism of a remarkable German botanist, by the name of Hindorf."  In Cuba its cultivation was introduced in 1880, by Fernando Heydrich in Matanzas. The first commercial plantings in Brazil were made in the late 1930s and the first sisal fibre exports from there were made in 1948. It was not until the 1960s that Brazilian production accelerated and the first of many spinning mills was established. Today Brazil is the major world producer of sisal. There are both positive and negative environmental impacts from sisal growing.

The plants grow best in moderately rich soil with good drainage and in warm moist climates. Young plants, propagated from bulbils or rhizomes (underground stems) of mature plants, are usually kept in nurseries for the first 12 to 18 months. At the beginning of the rainy season, the plants are transferred to the field. These methods offer no potential for genetic improvement. In vitro multiplication of selected genetic material using meristematic tissue culture (MST) offers considerable potential for the development of improved genetic material. Sisal matures about three to five years after planting, depending upon the climate, yielding satisfactory fibre for seven or eight years thereafter and producing about 300 leaves throughout the productive period. Outer leaves are cut off close to the stalk as they reach their full length. The initial harvest is about 70 leaves; subsequent annual production averages about 25.

Sisal fibre is made from the leaves of the plant.  Fibre is extracted by a process known as decortication, where leaves are crushed between rollers, beaten, and brushed away by a rotating wheel set with blunt knives, so that only fibres remain. The resulting pulp is scraped from the fibre, and the fibre is washed and then dried by mechanical or natural means. Alternatively, in East Africa, where production is typically on large estates, the leaves are transported to a central decortication plant, where water is used to wash away the waste parts of the leaf.

The fibre is then dried, brushed and baled for export. Proper drying is important as fibre quality depends largely on moisture content. Artificial drying has been found to result in generally better grades of fibre than sun drying, but is not always feasible in the less industrialised countries where sisal is produced. In the drier climate of north-east Brazil, sisal is mainly grown by smallholders and the fibre is extracted by teams using portable raspadors which do not use water. Fibre is subsequently cleaned by brushing. Dry fibres are machine combed and sorted into various grades, largely on the basis of the previous in-field separation of leaves into size groups.

The lustrous fibre strands, usually creamy white, average 100 to 125 cm (40 to 50 inches) in length and are fairly coarse and inflexible. Sisal fibre is especially valued for cordage use because of its strength, durability, ability to stretch, affinity for certain dyestuffs, and resistance to deterioration in salt water. The fibre is very similar to that of the related henequen (Agave fourcroydes).

Sisal is a valuable forage for honey bees because of its long flowering period. It is particularly attractive to them during pollen shortage. The honey produced is however dark and has a strong and unpleasant flavour. Because sisal is an agave, it can be fermented and distilled to make mezcal.  In India it may be an ingredient in some street snacks. Sisal is a folk remedy for dysentery, leprosy sores, and syphilis. The leaves contain hecogenin used in the partial synthesis of the drug cortisone.

Traditionally, sisal has been the leading material for agricultural twine (binder twine and baler twine) because of its strength, durability, ability to stretch, affinity for certain dyestuffs, and resistance to deterioration in saltwater.[18] The importance of this traditional use is diminishing with competition from polypropylene and the development of other haymaking techniques, while new higher-valued sisal products have been developed.

Apart from ropes, twines, and general cordage, sisal is used in low-cost and specialty paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, filters, geotextiles, mattresses, carpets, handicrafts, wire rope cores, and macramé. Sisal has been utilized as an environmentally friendly strengthening agent to replace asbestos and fibreglass in composite materials in various uses including the automobile industry.[6] The lower-grade fibre is processed by the paper industry because of its high content of cellulose and hemicelluloses. The medium-grade fibre is used in the cordage industry for making ropes, baler and binder twine. Ropes and twines are widely employed for marine, agricultural, and general industrial use. The higher-grade fibre after treatment is converted into yarns and used by the carpet industry.

Other products developed from sisal fibre include spa products, cat scratching posts, lumbar support belts, rugs, slippers, cloths, and disc buffers, fishing-nets, hammocks, door-curtains, floor-covers, bags etc..

Despite the yarn durability sisal is known for, slight matting of sisal carpeting may occur in high-traffic areas. Sisal carpet does not build up static nor does it trap dust, so vacuuming is the only maintenance required. Depending on climatic conditions, sisal will absorb air humidity or release it, causing expansion or contraction. Sisal is not recommended for areas that receive wet spills or rain or snow. Sisal is used by itself in carpets or in blends with wool and acrylic for a softer hand.


Source:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisal
https://pfaf.org/USER/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Agave+sisalana
https://www.britannica.com/plant/sisal

 

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Pemphis - Pemphis acidula
Sisal - Agave sisalana
Jute Mallow - Corchorus olitorius
Sugar Apple - Annona squamosa
Sapodilla - Manilkara zapota
Black Sapote - Diospyros nigra
Star Apple - Chrysophyllum cainito
White Ginger Lily - Hedychium coronarium
Yuzu - Citrus junos
Wild Loquat - Sugar Plum - Uapaca kirkiana
Tonka - Cumaru - Dipteryx odorata
Chinese bayberry - Myrica rubra
Wood Apple - Limonia acidissima
Açaí - Euterpe oleracea
Tindola - Ivy gourd - Coccinia grandis
Blue honeysuckle - Haskap - Lonicera caerulea
Balata - Manilkara bidentata
Calabash nutmeg - Monodora myristica
Allanblackia
Kola nut - Cola nitida
Rainbow eucalyptus - Eucalyptus deglupta
Elephant apple - Dillenia indica
Australian Christmas tree - Nuytsia floribunda
Honeywort- Cerinthe major
Aconite - Monkshood - Wolfsbane - Aconitum napellus
Crown of Thorns - Euphorbia milii
Abyssinian banana - Ensete ventricosum
Goldenrain Tree - Koelreuteria paniculata
Naranjilla - Lulo - Solanum quitoense
Brazil nut tree - Bertholletia excelsa
Sea grape - Coccoloba uvifera
Bignay - Antidesma bunius
Cashew - Anacardium occidentale
Giant Himalayan Lily - Cardiocrinum giganteum
African Hemp - Sparrmannia africana
Lychee - Litchi chinensis
Prickly Heath - Gaultheria mucronata
Hoodia - Bushman's hat - Hoodia gordonii
Cannibals Tomato - Solanum viride
Ashoka - Saraca asoca
Ackee - Blighia sapida
African plum - Safou - Dacryodes edulis
Solandra - Solandra maxima
Stapelia - Stapelia gigantea
Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea
Swiss Cheese Plant - Monstera deliciosa
Chocolate flower - Berlandiera lyrata
Sandersonia - Sandersonia aurantiaca
Northern Japanese Magnolia - Magnolia kobus
Champak - Magnolia champaca
Hooker’s lips - Psychotria elata
Suicide Tree - Cerbera odollam
Konjac - Amorphophallus konjac
Madagascar ocotillo - Alluaudia procera
Water Banana - Typhonodorum lindleyanum
Salak - Salacca zalacca
Natal Plum - Carissa macrocarpa
Ashanti blood - Mussaenda erythrophylla
Duranta - Duranta erecta
Maqui - Aristotelia chilensis
Manuka - New Zealand Tea Tree - Leptospermum scoparium
Suriname cherry - Eugenia uniflora
Australian Finger Lime - Citrus australasica
Sacred Flower of the Incas - Cantua buxifolia
Job's tears - Coix Lacryma-jobi
Velvet Bean - Mucuna pruriens
Java Apple - Syzygium samarangense
Screwpine - Pandanus utilis
Marimo - Aegagropila linnaei
Achocha/Caigua - Inca cucumber - Cyclanthera pedata
Rubber Tree - Hevea brasiliensis
Sugar cane - Saccharum officinarum
Sacha inchi - Plukenetia volubilis
Coffea - Coffee Tree - Coffea arabica
Liquorice - Licorice - Glycyrrhiza glabra
Mullein -Verbascum thapsus
Iceplant - Mesembryanthemum crystallinum
Chayote - Sechium edule
Roselle - Hibiscus sabdariffa
Black Goji - Lycium ruthenicum Murray
Rose Cactus - Pereskia grandifolia
Durian - Durio zibethinus
Jackfruit tree - Artocarpus heterophyllus
Cassabanana - Sicana odorifera
Chilean myrtle - Arrayan - Luma apiculata
Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneus
Rice-paper Plant -Tetrapanax papyrifer
Shell Ginger - Alpinia zerumbet
Harlequin Glorybower - Clerodendrum trichotomum
Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica
Silver Tree - Leucadendron argenteum
Buffaloberry - Shepherdia argentea
Himalayan Honeysuckle - Leycesteria formosa
Raisin Tree - Hovenia dulcis
Borojo - Alibertia patinoi - Borojoa patinoi
Butterfly Pea - Clitoria ternatea
Honey Flower - Melianthus major
Ombu - Phytolacca dioica
Lion's Ear - Wild Dagga - Leonotis leonurus
Moringa - Miracle Tree - Moringa oleifera
Sea Daffodil - Pancratium maritimum
Spear Lily - Gymea - Doryanthes
Camphor tree - Cinnamomum camphora
Waterwheel - Aldrovanda vesiculosa
Flowering rush - Butomus umbellatus
Four o'clock - Marvel of Peru - Mirabilis jalapa
Dead Man’s Fingers - Decaisnea
Bitter Melon - Momordica charantia
Shoapnuts Tree - Shoapberry - Sapindus
Acerola - Malpighia
Monkey Ladder - Sea Heart - Entada gigas
Cherimoya - Annona cherimola
Caper - Capparis spinosa
Lithops - Living Stones
Chaste Tree - Vitex agnus-castus
Chilean Lantern Tree - Crinodendron hookerianum
Parrot's Beak - Lotus berthelotii
Water Hyacinth - Eichhornia crassipes
Guaiac Tree - Guaiacum officinale - Lignum-vitae
Mickey Mouse bush - Ochna serrulata
Cow's Udder - Solanum mammosum
Miracle fruit - Synsepalum dulcificum
Akebia - Akebia quinata
Chilean Firebush - Embothrium coccineum
Caesalpinia - Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Welwitschia - Welwitschia mirabilis
Saguaro - Carnegiea gigantea
Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis
Monarda - Bee balm - Bergamot
Tamarind - Tamarindus indica
Neomarica - Walking Iris
Red hot poker - Kniphofia - Tritoma
Sikkim rhubarb - Rheum nobile
Reseda - Mignonette
Paulownia - Paulownia tomentosa
Belamcanda chinensis - Leopard lily
Blue Poppy - Meconopsis
Cannonball Tree - Couroupita guianensis
Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea
Goji - Wolfberry - Lycium barbarum
Vanilla - Vanilla Planifolia
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana
Pachypodium
Physalis
Ceropegia
Sturt pea - Swainsona formosa
Clematis
Grevillea
Jade vine - Strongylodon macrobotrys
Sansevieria - Snake Plant
Trochetia
Yareta - Azorella compacta
African tulip tree - Spathodea campanulata
Angel's Trumpets - Brugmansia
Achiote - Annato - Bixa orellana
Sausage Tree - Kigelia pinnata
Castor Oil Plant - Ricinus communis
Firewheel Tree - Stenocarpus sinuatus
Bat Flower - Tacca
Snake gourd - Trichosanthes cucumerina
Sedum
Hydnora - Hydnora africana
Pickerel Weed - Pontederia
Argan - Argania spinosa
Astilbe - False Goats Beard
Feijoa - Pineapple Guava - Acca sellowiana
Aquilegia - Columbine
Cassiope
Sweet Box - Sarcococca
Christmas Cactus - Schlumbergera
Foxtail Lily - Eremurus
Rue - Ruta graveolens
Pittosporum
Ylang-Ylang - Cananga odorata
Rose of Jericho - Anastatica hierochuntica
Gunnera
Waterlily - Nymphaea
Calico Flower - Aristolochia
Daylily - Hemerocallis
Contorted hazel - Corylus avellana Contorta
Torch Ginger - Etlingera elatior
Mistletoe - Viscum album
Devil´s claw - Harpagophytum procumbens
Teasel - Dipsacus
Pampas grass - Gynerium argenteum - Cortaderia Selloanna
Purple coneflower - Echinacea purpurea
Coral Tree - Erythrina crista-galli
Portulaca
Lobelia
Field Poppy - Papaver Rhoeas
Narcissus - Daffodil
Mimosa pudica - Sensitive Plant
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens
Firethorn - Pyracantha
Star of Bethlehem - Ornithogalum
Cosmos
Muscari - Grape Hyacinth
Papyrus - Cyperus papyrus
Zinnia
Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Passiflora - Passion Flower
Calendula - Marigold
Lupine - Lupinus
Canna - Indian Shot
Witch Hazel - Hamamelis
Oak - Quercus
Brunsvigia - Candelabra Flower
Tree peony - Paeonia suffruticosa
Olive - Olea europaea
Cornflower - Centaurea cyanus
Desert rose - Adenium obesum
Oleander - Nerium Oleander
Abutilon
Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus
Chaenomeles - Flowering Quince
Forsythia
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum
Butchers broom - Ruscus aculeatus
Bay Laurel - Laurus nobilis
Gloriosa
Bamboo
Gladiolus
Artichoke - Cynara scolymus
Clivia - Clivia Miniata
Dipladenia - Dipladenia sanderii
Date palm - Phoenix dactylifera
Peach - Prunus persica
Almond - Prunus amygdalus
Willow - Salix
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Protea cynaroides
Colchicum autumnale
Bird of Paradise - Strelitzia reginae
Cardon - Pachycereus pringlei
Wolffia arrhiza
Puya raimondii
Fuchsia
Asphodelus - Asphodel
Primula - Primerose
Dicentra spectabilis - Bleeding Heart
Edelweiss - Leontopodium alpinum
Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Zantedeschia - Calla Lily
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown imperial
Aster
Heliconia
Common Sunflower - Helianthus annuus
Bee Orchid - Orphys apifera
Convalaria majalis - Lily of the Valley - Muguet
Syringa Vurgaris - Lilac
Viola
Impantiens
Snowdrop - Galanthus
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
Dionaea muscipula
Banksia
Sea anemone
Amorrhophallus titanum
Rafflesia arnoldi

 

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