BSCI 124 Lecture Notes
Undergraduate Program in Plant Biology, University of Maryland
LECTURE 27 - PLANT FIBER MATERIALS:
CLOTH, PAPER; SPICES AND HERBS
I. Fiber definitions
Botanical definition: Fiber = long narrow tapering cell, dead and hollow
at maturity, thick cell wall composed mostly of
and lignin, rigid, for
support, found mainly in vascular tissue.
Commercial definition: Fiber = long narrow flexible material, may be animal
(hair, wool), mineral (asbestos), synthetic (nylon, dacron), or plant. See
this list of
Nutritional definition: Fiber = indigestible material in food
II. Types of plant fibers used in commerce; may be single cells or
groups of cells.
A. Textile fibers:
Surface fibers grow from the surface of seeds (cotton), leaves, or fruits
Soft or bast fibers are found in the phloem (inner bark) of dicotyledonous
stems (flax for linen; jute; hemp; ramie).
Hard or leaf fibers are found in monocot leaf vascular bundles (sisal, Manila
B. Papermaking fibers are single cells of cotton or delignified wood.
C. Minor types:
Brush and broom fibers (broomstraw)
Plaiting and weaving fibers, not single cells (palm leaves, grain straw,
Filling fibers (kapok, milkweed, cattails)
Felting fibers (paper mulberry, lace bark)
III. Commercially important plant fibers
Origin and history of use:
is a genus of 39 species found worldwide, four species are domesticated:
Gossypium herbaceum from S. Africa and G. arboreum from India,
both independently domesticated, especially India, spread to Arabia, Europe.
Both are diploid species, have short staple (fiber).
G. hirsutum upland cotton, domesticated in Central America, predominant
cotton grown today, long staple, tetraploid hybrid of wild South American
diploid species and Old World G. herbaceum.
G. barbadense, Sea Island, pima, or Egyptian cotton, domesticated
in Andes, spread early to Caribbean, also long staple, tetraploid hybrid
of New World and Old World diploid species.
Cultivation and processing
Cotton boll = fruit of cotton plant, splits open and dries, cotton lint clings
to seeds, harvested by hand or machine. A common pest is the
Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1792, separated lint from seeds. This
made possible the plantation economy of U.S. South based on cotton and
slave labor, and was a key element
in the industrial
Revolution.. Cotton dust can be a hazard.
is pressed for
oil, and the residue, cottonseed oil meal, is used for animal feed.
Cotton lint from bales is carded (straightened), combed, bleached.
of lint while stretching binds individual fibers into yarn or thread; depends
on the natural twist in cotton fibers. Thread then woven into cloth.
Cotton is a major agricultural commodity in the
of the world. Widely cultivated in China, Uzbekistan/Turkmenista, India,
Pakistan. French West Africa, Brazil and Australia -- all of whom export
cotton to the United States.
usitatisimum), plant source of linen
Origin and history of use
Used in prehistoric times in Swiss lake dwellings, many sites in Near East.
Especially cultivated in Egypt, then Greece, Rome. Later centers of production
in Belgium and Ireland. Now mainly grown in China, former USSR republics,
Linen, Linum, lingerie, line all derived from same root word.
Culture and processing of flax
Flax grows in cool climates, to height of 4 ft; unbranched varieties for
fiber, branched for oilseed.
Flax is harvested by combine that separates seed head, then pulls up stem
Retting = rotting for 1-2 weeks on ground, or days in water; removes soft
tissue, leaves vascular bundles.
Breaking = pounding or rolling, frees fibers; scutching = scraping off particles;
hackling = combing; then spinning, bleaching, weaving.
Used widely for many
products, including fine linens and even early
C. Minor textile fibers
READING] (Boehmeria nivea): native of China, grows 6 ft high, longest
fibers, processed like flax. Used mostly with other fibers for sweaters,
Hemp (Cannabis sativa), different varieties than drug plant. Native
like flax [see pictures of the
production process]; comes in a
variety of forms and
textures; used for canvas, rope and
paper. Hemp cloth made in
Nimes, France = denim; in Genoa, Italy, for jeans. Original Levi jeans were
are still made of hemp.
Jute (Corchorus spp.), native of India and Bangladesh, processed like
flax, used to make burlap, carpet backing, rope. Main export crop of Bangladesh;
India is a
major producer as well.
D. Other fibers
[REQUIRED READING] (Agave sisalana) and henequen (A. fourcroydes)
are desert succulents from Mexico and Central America; leaf fibers used to
make rope, mats
pentandra), seed fiber of South American tree; fibers are hollow
and waterproof, used for life preservers, parkas.
Oil is also
produced from the seeds.
(Hibiscus cannabinus), a common cultivated garden plant in our area,
is an excellent source of
that holds promise for
It is now being exploited for
products. [REQUIRED READING]
Rayon, a synthetic fiber from viscose, a chemical derivative of cellulose
from wood pulp. Cellophane is chemically identical but made into sheets instead
Wood pulp = slurry
of water and separated
Paper = thin sheet made by spreading pulp on a screen, draining and drying
Pulp processing [REQUIRED
READING] (see a graphic
depiction) and the
Mechanical grinding, makes cheapest pulp and paper, brown color if not bleached,
yellows readily. Used for newsprint, catalogs, paper towels.
Sulfite or sulfate processes use strong chemicals to dissolve lignin, leave
cellulose for white paper. Spent chemicals and
lignin create major pollution
problems. The use of
enzymes in the paper
industry may solve some of the problems
Papermaking consists of allowing pulp to flow onto a moving screen, where
the forming paper is quickly drained, then pressed and dried. Dry paper can
then be sized = treated with starch or clay to fill holes, make smooth surface.
Types of paper:
Printing and writing
packing and industrial
Types of paperboard and packaging papers
Kraft paper and paper
History of Paper
A bit of history
First paper made of the sedge
which the word
paper is derived
of writing was closely tied with the ability to make paper
Other sites of interest for fibers:
Cotton Online Resource
by students at Highland Park Elementary School
Shroud of Turin
is made of linen
International: Hemp fibers and textiles
Wars: The Extinction of Kentucky Hemp" by David P. West, a major review
and well worth reading!!
Cannabis-marijuana: a detailed site.
Pulp and Paper
Museum of Papermaking- virtual
collection at Duke University
technology for pulp bleaching: a technical report
Environmental performance in the pulp and paper industry:
a report for the American Forest and Paper Association
(Gossypium hirsutum) by James A. Duke
Loose definitions: Herbs are aromatic leaves, spices are other aromatic plant
organs (stems, fruits, seeds, roots, bark). Essential oils are flavor and
aroma components, often used instead of whole plant parts.
are used in cooking; spices also for perfumery, dyeing, medicine, preserving
food (originally embalming, in ancient Egypt).
Brief history of
nigrum), cinnamon, ginger
officinale) imported by Greeks from India, through Arab traders.
Romans sent ships direct from Red Sea ports. Greeks had many local
Trade monopoly by Arabs and Venetians, 1200s.
Age of Exploration: Monopolies established sequentially by Portuguese, Dutch,
British and French, importing spices from the East. Monopolies gradually
broken by war, smuggling of plants to new plantations.
New World spices imported to Europe by Spanish; never had the importance
of Old World spices.
Briefer description of spices and herbs:
Old world spices
zeylanicum), inner bark of cinnamon tree, India; closely related
cassia, traded as cinnamon in U.S.
fermented and dried berries of pepper vine, India and East Indies.
= same fruit with black outer portion removed.
fresh or dried rhizome of monocot herb.
longa), dried rhizome, related to ginger, used in curry powder, prepared
mustard, for yellow dye.
caryophyllus), dried flower buds of small evergreen tree from Spice
Islands, East Indies.
and mace, from nutmeg tree, from Spice Islands, East Indies. Mace
fragrans) is dried aril, a red netlike tissue covering the pit of
the fruit. Nutmeg is the dried seed in the pit.
New World spices
spp.): fruits of herbaceous plants from Mexico, C. and S. America
by Columbus [REQUIRED READING - introduction, origin and exploitation
only]. Hot compound is capsaicin, also used as painkiller, as for example
used for arthritis. Many varieties, shapes, sizes, pungency. Commonly
powder. Modern bell pepper is a chili that lost its hot.
Chili-Heads summary of
chemical structure of the capsainoids
planifolia), fermented and dried fruit of an orchid from Mexico,
called vanilla bean.
dioica), dried fruits of Caribbean tree; so named because it tastes
like combination of cinamon, cloves, nutmeg.
Mint family, most from Mediterranean: peppermint, spearmint
officinalis). Leaves are used.
Parsley family, mostly Mediterranean, leaves and dried fruits:
Mustard family, Old World: white, brown, and black
juncea) (yellow is from turmeric), horseradish root
lapathifolia), Japanese wasabi.
stativum) (all bulbs),
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Last revised: August 1998 - Barnett