Commonlyknown as the century plant, sisal, mescal, or sisal help, thescientific name of the plant pictured above is Agave sisalana.Introduced in several African countries, such as Angola, Kenya,Mozambique, Madagascar as early as the 1930s and elsewhere in thePhilippines, Haiti, Brazil, and Indonesia, the plant is native to theCentral America region, especially Mexico. Sisal plant is found inhabitats that range from the savannah, bush land, roadsides, as wellas along the drainage lines. The plant is a monocot, herbaceous andgrows as a shrub. Sisal is perennial and known to reproducevegetatively by suckers as well as bulbils (plantlets) on thebranches of its flower clusters. It is descriptively referred to as awoody herb having a rosette of thick fleshy spiny leaves shaped likea sword and measuring about 2 meters long. The edges of the plantleaves are spiny and have a sharp dark brown tip. Agave sisalanamatures in four to eight years following a successful planting andsends a central flower stalk that is estimated to be about 3 to 6meters in height. The flowers produced by the plant are yellow incolor and approximately 6 cm long. They form thick clusters at theend of the plant branches growing from the flower stalk and have anunpleasant smell. As the flower of the sisal plant starts withering,buds rising in the superior angle in the middle of the flower stalkand the stem mature into bulbils or tiny plants, which eventuallyfall to the ground and then take root. Finally, the old plantperishes when the blossoming is finalized (Bouloc 45).
Figure2: Stock and flowers of Agavesisalana
Theenvironment where the picture was taken reflects the native region ofthe plant. Sisal help has a preference for areas with an averagetemperature of between 20 and 28 º C and an average annual rainfallof between 600 and 1500 mm. The plant is known to adapt well to thesub-tropical and tropical regions with the capacity to tolerate hightemperatures as well as prolonged droughts.
Thereare several interesting facts about the sisal plant that makes itunique among the other plants. These include the spiny leaves shapedlike a sword that minimizes the rate of transpiration in the plantallowing it to withstand prolonged droughts. The plant is also knownto have long roots that are spread on the ground firmly holding thesocial and captures rain, dew, as well as condensed water. Agavesisalana has been estimated to have a lifespan of between 7 and 10years and cut for the first time after 2 to 3 years. The subsequentcuts after the first one are between 6 to 12 months intervals. Studies show that a sisal plant produces between 200 and 250commercially viable leaves within its lifespan (Kalia and Kaur 594).The hybrid varieties have been known to produce between 400 and 500leaves in a lifespan. An interesting fact about the sisal leaves isthat each comprises an average of about 1000 fibers. The fiberelement in the plant accounting for only 4% of the plant mass isextracted using the decortication process. Traditionally, the sisalhemp was regarded as the leading material for the manufacture oftwine. However, the significance of the plant has since diminishedfollowing the stiff competition from the polypropylene as well asother methods. Sisal is also used in buffing cloth, carpets,sociality paper, mattresses, as well as wire ropes. The plant is alsoused as a binding material for the plaster moldings and in theconstruction industry for reinforcing walls and ceilings (Kalia andKaur 596).
Bouloc,Pierre. Hemp:Industrial Production and Uses.UK: CABI2013 edition. 2013. Print.
Kalia,Susheel., and Kaith Kaur. CelluloseFibers: Bio- and Nano-Polymer Composites: Green Chemistry andTechnology.New York: SpringerScience & Business Media, 2011. Print.