Oriental Papermaking Fibres

Manila Hemp/Abaca

Common Name Manila Hemp/Abaca Japanese Name Manira Asa
Scientific Name Musaceae Musa Textilis
Fibre Length Average 6mm (2-12mm) Fibre Width Average 25µm (15-40µm)
Fibre Ends Pointed Cross-Marking Very Fine
Associated Cells Parenchyma, Epidermal cells with stomata, Silica cells, and short, pitted vessel elements
Herzberg Colour Blue/Gray Graff 'C' Colour Blue/Gray


Actually a member of the Banana family, Manila Hemp, or as it is otherwise known as Abaca, is not related to Hemp at all. Instead it got the name from its early use in rope and cordage that had previously mainly used Hemp. Native to the Phillippines, this plant also grows in Sumatra and Borneo as well as being cultivated in South and Central America. The fibres are harvested every 3-8 months, after an initial growth period of 18-25 months, while the plants themselves live for up to 10 years. Due to the fibres being resistant to salt water damage, the fibres are commonly used in ropes, lines, hawsers or nets used on ships. Other uses for the fibres include in rough papers, bagging, folders, handicrafts and rugs.

Fibres are thin walled, uniform in width, and usually taper to a pointed end. The fibres appear stiff and have smooth walls if compared to other bast fibres, with fine, occasionally diagonal striations. There are rectangular epidermal cells, which often stain yellow (see Image 1), with stomata with large subsidiary cells. Parenchyma cells are often present and can be rectangular or ‘pill’ shaped, (See Image 2). Spiral thickening is also sometimes present.


Image 1 Image 2
manilla1 manilla2


For information about this page, contact: Travis Taylor
Contact email address: travtora@gmail.com
Centre homepage: www.culturalconservation.unimelb.edu.au
Page last modified:

This page, its contents and style, are the responsibility of the author and do not represent the views, policies or opinions of The University of Melbourne.