The richness in diversity of the South African flora is acknowledged world
wide. This diversity also includes plant species characterised by high fibre
content in the leaf, stem or plant root of these species. These fibre sources
are not yet being utilised commercially, although they were used for many
centuries by the local tribes of the RSA.
The botanical description and distribution of these fibre plants are
published in various publications like those of Heith Palgrave (1981), Prof HP
van der Schijff (1957), Van Oudshoorn, Trollope, Scotney & McPhee (1991) and
Phillips (1931). At least 30 plant species are known to be high in fibre
The advantages of exploiting of indigenous plant species are that their
present distribution indicates their adaptation to certain environmental and
soil types. Fibre plants grow in about all ecosystems of South Africa.
The subtropical low lying coastal plains are richly provided with spp, but in
the warm bushveld and arid half desert areas are also plant types adapted types.
Unique species are adapted to the wet lands and poorly drained areas.
Fibre plants are present in diverse plant families which includes legumes,
woody species and grasses. It seems that a rotation system with only fibre
plants is possible.
A limited scale of utilization of a few natural fibre species is possible. To
obtain full sustainability of a range of alternative plant types we must first
expand our knowledge and expertise of these plant species. Research is required
to determine the fibre properties of potential plants species, to determine the
fibre content on a plant basis, and to quantify the growth rate of each species
under natural conditions, but also under improved growing conditions. Methods to
establish the new crops, cultivation requirements and presence of limiting
factors must be determined. The economical yield potential must be quantified.
The species with most potential can also be improved genetically by breeding, by
genetical engineering and by selection programmes.
To develop the potential of indigenous plants for fibre production, a close
working and financial relationship between the new farmer, the fibre industry
and agricultural scientist must be developed. The establishment of a
agro-fibre-industry that can independently manage its affairs and solves its own
problems will be the ideal. This, however requires faithful men of high
intellect to start this timely process.
VAN OUDTSHOORN, F.P., TROLLOPE, W.S.W., SCOTNEY, D.M. & McPHEE, P.J.,
1991. Gids tot grasse van Suid-Afrika. Briza Publikasies Bpk, Arcadia:
PALGRAVE, K.C. 1981. Trees of Southern Africa. C. Struik Publishers, Cape
VAN DER SCHIJFF. H.P., 1957. Ekologiese studie van die flora van die
Nasionale Krugerwildtuin. D.Sc-proefskrif. Universiteit Potchefstroom vir
PHILLIPS, E.P., 1931. South African grasses. The South African Central News