Sisal Hemp Plantation, Uganda, Africa

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tiff scanned file from original glass slide
This looks like a forest of young pines. You can tell, however, by the leaves that shoot out from the base of each plant that they are not trees such as any you have ever seen. In fact, they are not trees at all. They are the plants from which is secured the sisal (s-säl) hemp of commerce. Most of our binder twine is made from the fiber of sisal hemp. The sisal hemp is a native of Central America. There it is known as the henequen. Yucatan and the Bahamas lead in its production; but, as you see, great plantations have been set out in Uganda (-gän´ dä), where the soil and climate is very like that of Yucatan. To grow sisal hemp the land is first plowed and the rows laid out about 9 feet apart. Suckers are set in these rows, 5 feet from each other and the ground is cultivated 2 or 3 times during the year to keep the weeds out. In 2 or 3 years the spine-like leaves, that you see at the foot of the plant, are some 4 or 5 feet long. These are cut off, wrapped in bundles, and sent to a cleaning machine. Here they are crushed and the pulp is removed from the long, strong fibers which extend the length of the leaves. These fibers are then dried, baled, and shipped to large cordage factories. Much of it is sent to Chicago, and to cities round about, where the binder twine industry centers. An acre of rich ground will produce as much as 1,000 pounds of fiber, but this is far above the average. The plants mature at various ages. Some become full grown at 10 years; some not until 25 or 30 years. At this time a strong central shoot, such as you observe, grows up from the heart. This is a flower stalk that bears clusters of beautiful blossoms. Keystone ID: 17034 Note: All titles, descriptions, and location coordinates are from the original Keystone Slide documentation as supplied by the Keystone View Company. No text has been edited or changed.
Copyright by the Keystone View Company. The original slides are housed in McConnell Library's Special Collections.