sisal hemp (sĪˈsəl, sĭsˈəl, sēsälˈ) [key] [from Sisal, former chief port of Yucatan], important cordage fiber obtained from the leaves of the sisal hemp plant, an extensively cultivated tropical agave (family Agavaceae or Liliaceae). It is considered second to Manila hemp in strength and value and is used chiefly for cordage. About half the sisal produced is exported to the United States and Canada, where much of it is used as binding twine for grain-harvesting machines. True sisal ( Agave sisalana ), henequen ( Agave fourcroydes ), and many other similar fibers from the agave and closely related genera are often collectively called sisal hemp. Henequen [from the Mexican name; its fiber was used by the pre-Columbian Native Americans] is grown chiefly in Yucatan, and production of henequen twine is a major industry there. The false sisal of Florida ( A. decipiens ) produces an inferior fiber. Sisal hemp is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Lilopsida, order Liliales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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