RAFFIA - Like chair cane and piassava, raffia is a palm fiber. It is obtained from the leaf or leaf rib fiber from tropical palm varieties (Palmae)) and should not be confused with the palm-type fibers such as yucca and aloe, which come from the Liliaceae family. Raffia is also sold under the name raffia bast.
The raffia palm (Raphia farinifera) was originally native to Madagascar; however, stocks there have been decimated by over-exploitation. This palm is now cultivated in West and East Africa.
Raffia palms are up to 20 m high, the palm crowns carrying pinnate leaves up to 15 m long and up to 3 m wide. The young, as yet unopened leaves are covered with the raffia bast, which is removed, dried and packaged in bales.
Raffia fibers have very good strength and stretch. They are 1.5 - 1.8 m long and 0.04 m wide.
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