FIBER PLANTS. Figs. 392-404.
Fiber-producing plants are second only to food plants in agricultural importance. In continental United States, however, cotton, hemp and flax are the only fiber plants cultivated commercially, and, aside from cotton and hemp, most of the raw fibers used in our industries are imported. In an article of this scope, only the leading commercial fibers can be discussed. The reader of literature on fibers will find many names of materials that are used in tropical countries, but the fibers may not be subjects of export. In Mexico and Central America the name " pita " is widely used for a great variety of plant fibers, but none of them is produced in suffi cient quantity to become an article of commerce outside those countries. Bamboo, okra, paper mul berry and pandanns (screw-pine) afford fibers that are used by natives in many countries.
Commercial plant fibers include (1) Textile fibers, used for spinning into yarns for woven and knit goods, thread, twine and cordage, such as cotton, hemp and sisal; including brush fibers, used in mak ing brushes, such as ixtle and piassaba. (2) Plaiting or rough weaving fibers, used for hats, mats and baskets, such as straw, raffia and rushes. (3) Fill ing or stuffing fibers, used for mattresses, cushions and upholstering, such as Florida moss, crin vege tal and kapok. (4) Natural textures, such as Cuba bast, used in millinery goods and wrapping cigars. (5) Paper materials, such as jute butts, esparto, straw and wood pulp. The last two groups are not specially discussed here.
Textile fibers are readily classified by origin, character and use into three groups : (a) Cottons, hair-like single cells, one-half to two inches long, growing on the seed in closed seed-pods, used for spinning into fine yarns for woven and knit goods, threads, twines and cords of small diameter. (b) Soft fibers, long strands of overlapping cells pro duced in the bast or inner bark of the stalks of plants such as flax, hemp, jute and ramie, capable of subdivision into fine flexible soft strands, used for spinning into yarn for fine woven goods and also for threads, twines and cordage of small diameter. (c) Hard fibers, long strands of over
lapping cells, somewhat lignified or woody in character, extending through the tissues of thick fleshy leaves or leaf stems of plants such as agaves, bananas, phormium, sansevierias and yuccas. While often capable of fine subdivision, these hard fibers are stiffer than bast fibers of the same de gree of fineness. Hard fibers are used chiefly for coarse twines and cordage of all sizes up to eighteen-inch (circumference) towing hawsers.
(a) CorroNs (see article on Cotton).
Cotton is produced by several species of the genus Gossypium belonging to the Mallow family. The most important commercial cottons belong to two distinct groups, as follows : (1) Occidental cottons, of American origin.
Gossypium hirsutum, Linn. American upland cotton, native in tropical America, now cultivated from Virginia to Texas and Oklahoma, also in Mexico, Argentina, Turkestan and in many parts of India.
Gossypium Barbadensc, Linn. Sea-island cotton, native in tropical America, now cultivated on the islands and adjacent shores of South Carolina, and through the interior of southern Georgia and north ern Florida, also in the West Indies ; and Egyptian cotton, cultivated in Egypt and recently introduced in the colonies in both East and West Africa.
Gossypiu in Peruvian use, Cay. Peruvian cotton, cultivated in Peru and also to some extent in Africa.
(2) Oriental cotton; of Asiatic or African origin.
Gossypium herbaccum, Linn. Cultivated in India, Asia Minor and southern Europe.
Gossypium arboreum, Linn. Cultivated in India, China and Japan.
Gossypium Wightianum, Tod. Cultivated in India, China, Japan, Korea and Transcaucasia.
In the United States, 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres, about one-third the acreage of corn, is planted in cotton each year. The annual produc tion ranges from 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 bales of 500 pounds each, more than half of which is exported. Fifty million to 75,000,000 pounds, chiefly Egyptian cotton, valued at $6,000,000 to $11,000,000, are imported, as it differs in quality from that produced here.