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Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Zingiberales
Family: Musaceae
Genus: Musa
Species: M. textilis
Binomial name
Musa textilis

Abacá, from Spanish "abacá", pronounced [ɑ.bə.ˈkɑ] ("ah buh KAH"), (Musa textilis) is a species of banana native to the Philippines, grown widely as well in Borneo and Sumatra. The plant is of great economic importance, being harvested for its fibre, called Manila hemp, extracted from the large, oblong leaves and stems. On average, the plant grows about 20 feet (6 meters) tall. The fibre is used for making twines and ropes. The plant's name is sometimes spelt Abaká. It was first cultivated on a large scale in Sumatra in 1925 under the Dutch, who had observed its cultivation in the Philippines for cordage since the 1800s, followed up by plantings in Central America sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before World War II, a commercial was begun in 1930 in British North Borneo; with the commencement of WWII, the supply from the Philippines was eliminated by the Japanese.

Other common names for Manila hemp include "Cebu hemp" and "Davao hemp".


The leaves grow from the trunk of the plant, and the bases of the leaves form a sheath (covering) around the trunk; there are approximately 25 of these, with 5 cm in diameter and from 12 to 25 leaves with overlapping petioles, covering the stalk to form a shrub or "false trunk" about 30 to 40 cm in diameter. They grow in succession, with the oldest growing from the bottom of the trunk and successively younger ones from the top. The sheaths contain the valuable fibre. The coarse fibres range from 5 to 11½ feet (1.5 to 3.5 metres) in length. They are composed primarily of the plant materials such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin. After the fibre has been separated, it is sold under the name Manila, the capital of the Philippines.


Bananera, Guatemalan worker trims leaves from abacá plant.
Bananera, Guatemalan worker trims leaves from abacá plant.

The plant is normally grown in well-drained loamy soil, using pieces of mature root planted at the start of the rainy season. Growers harvest abacá fields every three to eight months after an initial growth period of 18-25 months and a total lifespan of about 10 years. Harvest generally includes having several operations concerning the leaf sheaths:

  • tuxying (separation of primary and secondary sheath)
  • stripping (getting the fibers)
  • drying (usually following tradition of sun-drying).

The fibers can then be spun into twines or cordage.


Abacá rope is very durable, flexible and resistant to salt water damage (for this reason it is often used in ropes, hawsers, lines on ships and for things like fishing nets . It can also be used to make handcrafted products like bags, carpets, clothing, and furniture. The fibers can also be pulped and then processed into specialty paper such as tea bags, vacuum bags, currency paper, special paper, and more.

Scientific classification

The abacá plant belongs to the banana family, Musaceae; it resembles its closely related cousin plant, the Musa sapientum. Its scientific name is Musa textilis.

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