‚ÄčThe 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 content.


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.

Utilization of this Resource

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.

Team Work

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.

Literature References

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: Pretoria.

PALGRAVE, K.C. 1981. Trees of Southern Africa. C. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.

VAN DER SCHIJFF. H.P., 1957. Ekologiese studie van die flora van die Nasionale Krugerwildtuin. D.Sc-proefskrif. Universiteit Potchefstroom vir CHO.

PHILLIPS, E.P., 1931. South African grasses. The South African Central News Agency Ltd.