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StarBird Toys

Seek A Treat Pickapart (3 sizes)
   SeekATreat    Pickapart

Price: $18.50


Price: $10.50


As with all toys that have rope, sisal, fabric and curly laces,  PLEASE be sure to
check the toy daily for frayed edges and keep it (and your parrot's nails) well trimmed.

What is Manila hemp/Abaca?  StarBird simply calls the material Abaca so no one will thinks it's hemp.  Manila hemp is the fiber extracted from the leaves of abaca, (Musa textilis) a plant related to the banana.  It is widely distributed in the hot humid tropics of the western hemisphere.

What does the abaca plant look like?  When mature, the giant herbaceous plant consists of a series of twelve to twenty overlapping leaf-sheaths, which form a pseudostem, surmounted by large oval leaf blades.  The true stem is an underground rhizome from which the pseudostems arise. The stalk bearing the inflorescence grows up through the centre of the pseudostem.  After pollination (usually by bats) green fruits are produced which look like bananas but are in fact inedible.

What are Manila hemp fibers? The fibers, which are extracted from the surface layers of the leaf sheaths, are long slim cells forming part of the supporting structure of the leaf associated with the water and food-transporting systems (xylem and phloem respectively) of the plant.  The fiber strands, which can be up to 3m inch length, are composed of many single fiber cells bound together.  These long flexible pale-colored bundles are used in rope and textile manufacture whilst individual fiber cells can be teased out from these bundles for paper-making.

How is abaca grown?  The plant is propagated from seeds, from suckers (new above ground shoots) or from rhizomes (the underground stems).  It grows best in a fertile well-drained soil and a hot humid climate with year-round rainfall.  When new plantings reach four to five years of age, they produce a full crop of mature stalks yielding up to 1 ton of dry fiber per acre.  Maximum production continues until the plants are seven to eight years old.

How is abaca processed?  The larger pseudostems are harvested before the flowers are due to appear to ensure a good yield of fiber.  The pseudostem of rolled leaves is cut down and the palm-like fronds of leaves at the tope of the plant are cut off and discarded.  The leaves are 2-4 m long, and heavy and unwieldy to handle, so most of the processing is done in the field.  It takes 100 kg of fresh leaves to produce 13 kg of fiber.

The surface layer of the sheath is stripped within twenty-four hours of harvesting to prevent deterioration.  Strips from the inner and outer leaf sheaths in the pseudostem are kept separate because they contain fibers of different qualities.  Fiber from the outer sheaths is coarser and stronger and can be graded for use as rope-making fiber; that from the inner sheaths is paler and finer, more suitable for paper-making.

The leaf strips are decorticated to separate the fibers from the surrounding tissues. T his is frequently done by hand using sharp knives to scrape the 'tuxies' along their length to reveal the fibers.  Decorticating can also be performed mechanically using a battery-driven 'hagotan' with a whirling set of eight knives or by using a large decorticating machine to clean the fibers.  After stripping and decorticating, the fiber strands are hung across drying poles in the open.  Drying may take from a few hours to a couple of days.

How is Manila hemp used?  Manila hemp is spun into yarn to be used for the manufacture of ropes and coarse cloth for sacking. The ropes are frequently used as ships' rigging and other marine cables.


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This page was last updated on 03/06/2016

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