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Abacá (Musa textilis), illustration

Abacá ( Musa textilis ), illustration

Order : Gingery (Zingiberales)
Family : Banana family (Musaceae)
Genre : Bananas ( musa )
Type : Abacá
Scientific name
Musa textilis

The Abacá ( Musa textilis ; Filipino spelling Abaka ), also called Manila hemp , banana hemp or Musahanf , is a plant species from the genus bananas ( Musa ) in the banana family (Musaceae) native to East Asia . It is used as a fiber plant and is mainly used for the production of saltwater-resistant ship ropes. The name Manila hemp refers to the capital of the Philippines as traditionally the most important port of export, but is misleading insofar as the species does not belong to the genus hemp ( cannabis ). In addition to abacá, other fiber plants from the banana family are also referred to as fiber bananas or textile bananas .


The Abacá reaches a height of 3 to 8 meters and a diameter of the false trunk of 12 to 30 centimeters. The pseudo trunk consists of a soft core, the actual trunk, and up to 25 leaf sheaths tightly wrapped around it. Starting from a shallow root system, up to 25 vertical false stems grow per single plant. The leaf stalks reach lengths of 60 to 70 centimeters. The long-elliptical leaf blades are 1.2 to 2.4 meters long and 20 to 40 centimeters wide. The leaf tops are glabrous and light green in color, the undersides are covered with downy hairs and spotted brown. Parallel lateral veins branch off from the very strong central rib of the leaves.

The inflorescence is long and pendulous with red-brown to green bracts , which are closely arranged like roof tiles, have a length of 10 and a width of 6 centimeters. On the underside of each bract there are 10 to 12 flowers in two rows. The unisexual flowers are zygomorphic and threefold, the basal 3 to 6 flowers are female and the distal flowers are male.

The fruits, which botanically belong to the berries , are green and slightly curved. They reach a length of 5 to 9 and a width of 2 to 3 centimeters. They are not edible. Black seeds with a diameter of about 7 millimeters develop in the berries.

Depending on the variety , the lifespan is between five and 25 years; as a fiber plant, abaca plants are generally used for a maximum of 15 years. New false stems are ready to harvest after about 18 to 24 months, harvesting takes place during flowering.

The Abacá's chromosome set is 2n = 20.

Distribution history

The Abacá originally comes from the Philippines and gained in importance with its use as a baptismal fiber in the 19th century. In 1925 the Dutch began growing the plant in Sumatra , and the US Department of Agriculture financed plantings in Central America. In 1930 a small private company was started in British North Borneo . Since the Allies could no longer obtain Abacá from the Philippines with the beginning of the Second World War , production in Central America was significantly expanded.

Today, due to its use, Abacá is cultivated in large parts of South and Southeast Asia as well as in Central and South America. As a tropical plant, it needs fertile soil and regular rainfall.


Different qualities of abaca fibers
Fiber type

Natural fiber




gray, brown

Fiber length Single
fiber: 6 mm. Fiber bundle: 1000-2000 mm
Fiber diameter Single fiber: 0.024 mm
density 1.5 g / cm 3
Elongation at break 8.0%
Products Cellulose, tea bags, ropes, natural fiber reinforced plastics

The hard fibers of the abaca leaves, which are up to two meters long, are mainly used. The fiber is relatively coarse and has a high tensile strength of 45 to 70 cN / tex . To obtain the fiber, which is also known as Abacá or Manila, the leaves are cut off at the base at the beginning of the flowering period and sorted according to their age and quality. The innermost and thus youngest leaf sheaths contain the softest and weakest fibers. After removing the leaf blades, they are cut into strips while they are fresh and the fibers (= vascular bundle sheaths ) are removed by hand or with machines. They are then freed from the fleshy parts of the leaf sheath and placed in the sun to dry and bleach. After that, they only make up around 10% of the leaf sheath. For transport, the fibers are pressed into bales or - especially for processing into natural fiber composites - spun into yarn and wound onto yarn reels.

Good plantings provide a hectare yield of around 4 tons. Variety names for Manila hemp are (from coarse to fine): Bandala, Lupis, Quilot, Tupoz. The color ranges from white to yellowish to brown.

The economically relevant growing countries are the Philippines and Ecuador . Indonesia and Panama produce around 100,000 tons per year with a yield of 0.1 to 1.5 t / ha. Most of this is exported. The value of the worldwide abacá production is estimated at around 30 million US $, the fibers are almost exclusively exported.


Most of the fiber production is processed into pulp, i.e. dissolved in water and used for special cellulose products such as paper for tea bags , cigarette paper , sausage casings, banknotes (currently only in Japan) and industrial filters . The Manila envelope , an envelope for A4 forms with a yellowish tint, as well as the Manila tags , were originally made from Abacá cellulose. Due to their salt water tolerance, the fibers are also used for the production of ropes, ropes and fishing nets; hammocks, carpets and transmission belts are also made from them. In the automotive industry in 2005 reinforced with abaca was polypropylene as an alternative to glass fiber reinforced plastics in the production of the spare wheel well of the Mercedes A-Class coupes used. Further areas of application are currently being sought for corresponding natural fiber composites.

Plant enzymes are used in the cosmetics industry as a by- product of fiber utilization.


  • Robert R. Franck: Bast and other plant fibers. Woodhead Publishing Limited, Cambridge 2005, ISBN 1-85573-684-5 .

Web links

Commons : Abacé  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Abaka  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Abaca. In: Franck 2005, pp. 315–321.
  2. a b c Description as described in Flora of China
  3. Abaca . In: Encyclopædia Britannica .
  4. a b c d Comparative physical, chemical and morphological characteristics of certain fibers. In: Franck 2005, pp. 4-23.
  5. a b Michael Pankratius: Renewable raw materials - The future of the field. nachwachsende-rohstoffe.biz, March 12, 2010, accessed on January 23, 2013 .
  6. a b Musa textilis. In: JR Hoppe: Morphology, anatomy and systematics of the higher plants.
  7. a b Abaca. Presentation of the natural fibers on the FAO's International Year of Natural Fibers 2009 website, accessed on January 23, 2013.
  8. Michael Carus et al.: Study on the market and competitive situation for natural fibers and natural fiber materials (Germany and EU). Gülzower Expert Discussions 26, Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe eV (Ed.), Gülzow 2008, p. 128, download (PDF; 3.9 MB).