Miraguano. A vegetable fiber. Three different floors.

I don’t know very well how I came to know this spectacular vegetable fiber, but it has caused some controversy in the editors of this blog regarding its origin. There seems to be some confusion on the internet about this. We are going to try to clarify it because there are those who say that it comes from a palm tree, and others that it comes from a tropical tree called Ceibo. Are you aiming to find out where the miraguano comes from?

If you are interested in knowing what miraguano is, you should know that it is a vegetable fiber with very interesting properties that we will show a little below. Miraguano has been used for decades to fill mattresses, pillows, cushions and bedspreads. Even for filling life jackets! How come we haven’t heard of her?

PROPERTIES OF MIRAGUANO AS A TEXTILE FIBER

We are surrounded by textile fibers derived from plastics such as polyester, nylon, elastane, polyamide … but sometimes we ignore some fibers that nature gives us that are a true marvel in characteristics. We list the most important of the miraguano and also its disadvantages. Ask yourself a question. If it’s as good as you’re going to read, why don’t I see it on my clothes like cotton

  • Miraguano is a fiber that stands out mainly for its lightness . It is a fiber much lighter than cotton.
  • It is a shiny fiber with extreme softness .
  • Practically waterproof and with brutal buoyancy . It can support 30 times its weight in water.
  • It is a very inert fiber towards organisms, which is why it is very aseptic for mites etc. precisely because of its impermeability.
  • It does not retain any moisture (easy drying).
  • For this reason it is widely used to fill pillows and bedspreads. They are really comfortable. Ah! and also stuffed animals.
  • It is used as a filler because it loses little of its structure. If it gets wet or crushed, just leave it in the sun and it will regain its volume and primary structure.

At this point, one stops and thinks, why haven’t I heard of and don’t have clothes of this fiber ? Do my pillows or my sofa cushions have miraguano inside? Probably not. To all these questions we answer with the disadvantages of such a fiber.

DISADVANTAGES OF THE MIRAGUANO

  • It is not used as a textile fiber for spinning garments because the spinning process is complex and expensive. It is not a very strong fiber in fact. That is the answer. What’s more,
  • the production is not very abundant and it is an expensive fiber to obtain.
  • There are cheaper synthetic substitutes with similar properties.
  • It is quite flammable

HOW MUCH DOES THE MIRAGUANO COST?

There are very variable prices and we do not know if some that are offered are natural or synthetic miraguano. Because yes, although miraguano is natural, actually, having synthetic substitutes, everything has been diluted a bit and now it is necessary to specify whether it is natural or artificial miraguano. We have seen everything, prices from € 20 / kg to € 70 / kg and we really don’t know if it is 100% natural.

Zen Miraguano Natural 1kg for Stuffing, Cushions, zafu, Plush, Anti allergy,

  • Quantity: 1kg
  • 100% natural
  • Perfect for meditation
  • Natural filling
  • Anti mites

AND WHERE DOES THE MIRAGUANO COME FROM?

Great question that we at Gardenprue have been investigating. Apparently, if you search for miraguano on the web, the first searches appear, a Caribbean palm tree native and almost exclusive to the island of Cuba called miraguano, of which we tell you everything you need to know even to grow it. If you are not very interested in how it is grown and its characteristics and you want to move on to the part of why we believe that this is not its origin, go to the heading « Ah! And we have not talked about the fruit of the ” Miraguano ” a little further down.

ORIGIN AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MIRAGUANO OR MIRAGUAMA PALM

Coccothrinax miraguama is its scientific name and it is a very special palm tree since its origin and current distribution place it in the Caribbean, but not widely, no. Only on the island of Cuba is he called, Biraguano, Miraguano or Yuraguano. As we can see in the following GBIF.org distribution map, there are only certain points in Cuba where to find this species, also called Caribbean Palm.

There are not many more records of this palm outside the island of Cuba. Extracted from GBIF.org

The genus Coccothrinax is a group of palm trees, specifically 52, and Coccothrinax miraguana is very special because it is located only on the island of Cuba.

Did you know?
Palm trees do not have a trunk as such, it is called a false trunk. Its function is exactly the same as that of any tree but it is not ordinary wood. It is a fibrous structure that has nothing to do with wood.

The bearing of this palm tree is very Caribbean, with a thin, tall and slender trunk with a group of leaves on the upper part in the form of a fan like hundreds of species of palm trees. It grows quite fast if it is comfortable in its place of planting, which could perfectly be your garden if you live in Cuba, or if your climate allows you to generate a similar environment.

The leaves of this palm tree are really attractive as they are large, star-shaped, palmate and can almost close 360º since they consist of about 50-60 V-shaped leaflets, only slightly divided by the stem. Each of the leaves can be up to 1.5 meters wide. Each palm tree can have between 25-30 leaves making a ball of leafy green fans.

The leaflets are dark green, tending to bluish and grayish on the underside. The stems do not have spikes or quills and although they are thin in relation to other species they can reach little more than a meter.

Its overall dimensions can reach 15 meters, the average being 10-12 m   high and its upper foliage can extend about 3-4 meters wide with respect to the center of the palm. Its (false) trunk is covered by a sheath, plus the bases of old leaves that eventually detach, leaving a “barkless” trunk.

Miraguama palm tree. Photo by: Ryan Somma

EDAPHOCLIMATIC CONDITIONS OF THE MIRAGUANO PALM

WEATHER

Although it may seem strange, due to the Caribbean climatic conditions to which it is used, the truth is that it can withstand light frosts that are not very persistent in time or very frequent (down to -2ºC ). Although, as we always say, tolerance is one thing and the thermal ranges in which a specific species is comfortable for optimal growth is quite another. And there we go to thermal averages typically of tropical or subtropical climate.

As for sun exposure, they like total exposure . Yes, we can grow the Miraguano palm in semi-shade.

SOIL AND FERTILIZER

It requires a very well drained soil but rich in organic matter. It should not be a soil that retains too much moisture. Rather sandy and with good drainage. It requires a fairly neutral pH, between 6.5 and 7.5.

In the aspect of fertilization we have a dichotomy. On the one hand, the palm tree will grow without you fertilizing it, but on the other it may have somewhat special needs to grow at a good pace.

Palm trees in general, due to the draining, coastal and healthy soil that they suffer many times, tend to have quite a few nutritional deficiencies and, although fertilization of the Miraguano palm is not strictly necessary, an adequate dose of nutrients will allow a much faster growth.

With very draining soil, slow release fertilizers are the best option , but not just any fertilizer. They must be of quality and very specific since they do not have the same needs as most plants. The presence of boron in fertilizers is usually a quality indicator.

They do not usually require a lot of phosphorus but they do need magnesium, potassium, nitrogen or micronutrients such as iron or manganese. The NPK 8-2-12 proportions (there are more formulations) as you can see provide much less phosphorus compared to the other two nutrients according to the needs. Iron deficiencies must be managed by iron chelates .

IRRIGATION

Fairly drought tolerant, but regular watering will ensure optimal growth . Be careful if the soil is not very draining. If we cannot improve this aspect of the soil, we must be careful with watering since excessive accumulation in the root zone will have fairly immediate rotting effects.

AH! AND WE HAVE NOT TALKED ABOUT THE FRUIT OF THE MIRAGUANO

The fruits are red, globose, 1-2 cm in diameter that turn purple and black as they mature. And this is where doubts arise, because exactly where do we get the textile fiber from the miraguano? Of the fruit of the miraguano? If we have to extract fiber from the fruit of the Miraguano palm tree, we will have a difficult time because it does not look like it contains any textile fiber that can be extracted.

Fruit of the miraguama palm. Photo from Invasive.org

WE BELIEVE THAT THERE IS CONFUSION ON THE INTERNET ABOUT SPECIES RELATED TO THE NAME MIRAGUANO

In many internet media, it is said that the Miraguano is extracted from this palm tree called Miraguano. The textile fiber of the miraguano may not come from the Coccothrinax miraguama but from another tropical species that occurs in other tropical parts of the world called ceiba or ceibo ( Ceiba pentandra ). In addition, the name ceibo is also used for several and the best known is Erythrina crista-galli so beware of common names that give rise to confusion.

In fact, the miraguano as a textile figure is extracted from other species apart from the Ceiba pentandra that have similar textile fibers such as the Bombax ceiba , of Indian origin. And why do we believe this? Because in many of the places where we have come looking for this product, they sell it as a natural filling “kapok” and if we look for this name then we get this tropical tree, the Ceiba pentandra . Now we are going to know a little more about this tree and why we think that the Miraguano comes from here.

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE «INDIAN KAPOK» OR CEIBA

The Kapok is known as Indian Kapok and is also called Javanese cotton, although it has nothing to do with the origin of the species. This gigantic rainforest tree is from Central America and was a great symbol to the Mayans. But currently it is distributed throughout the tropics of half the world. If we see the current distribution we get an idea. And it is known as Java cotton because it is an important product there or at least it was. It is a crop

Ceiba pentandra worldwide distribution

Its dimensions take away the hiccups. It can reach more than 70 meters with a normal height of around 50 m. The trunk is huge to support so much height, 3 meters in diameter at the base that it becomes thinner as it increases in height until it reaches the crown, with large leaves made up of several leaflets.

It is an extremely fast growing tree, with rates reaching 4 meters each year! if the light conditions are suitable. It is deciduous and in fact blooms with the leaf already fallen to facilitate pollination since, leaving the tree bare, the bats access the nectar of its flower causing a guaranteed pollination, a pollination that occurs at night, first because the bats They are nocturnal and the white ceiba flowers open for them at night.

The ceiba is a tree with a strong vecero character and can go years, but many years without flowering, up to 10 no more and no less . Now yes, the year that it blooms they find out from Sumatra to my house because the blooming is exaggerated and its fruiting is almost total with between 3000 and 4000 fruits per tree.

Size of this vegetable monster Photo by: Vince Smith

WHAT DO THE FRUITS CONTAIN? COULD IT BE THE MIRAGUANO?

Some of these fruits (pods) open on the tree, leaving thousands of fibers that contain the seeds in the air. These are carried by the wind to germinate away from the mother tree, which is known as anemocoria, that is, using the wind as a method of dispersal of the seeds or hooked on animals (zoocoria).

The fruits of the ceiba or kapok are collected, opened with a mallet and reveal their seeds wrapped in the long-awaited fibers of miraguano that do not measure more than 3 centimeters. We have already counted the properties of such fibers at the beginning of the article, so it is unnecessary to mention them again.

Miraguano pod ( Ceiba pentandra ). Photo by: Len Worthington

As a matter of fact, the wood has been used in countries of origin to build canoes. It is a wood that splinters too much, somewhat weak (perhaps due to its rapid growth) and it does not support well that we insert nails or screws (it opens) and therefore, in furniture or construction manufacturing it is not used.

What is certain is that synthetic products have managed to displace this natural fiber and therefore its harvest and use has decreased considerably.

WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THAT THERE IS ANOTHER MIRAGUANO WHOSE FRUIT ALSO HAS THIS TYPE OF FIBER? HOW DO YOU STAY?

I PRESENT TO YOU THE ARAUJIA SERICIFERA, THE CRUEL PLANT

The story of the Miraguano does not end here. There is another plant from South America that is also called miraguano and that contains a globose fruit with seeds that have apical vilanos (those fibers) that are also considered miraguano. This plant is also known as cruel plant or Tucuman Jasmine ( Araujia sericifera ) and humans have taken it around the world (Europe, Asia, Australia, South Africa …) because it had commercial value (for the fiber of the fruit as textile ) and a lot of ornamental value for several reasons:

  • Its ease of growth and dense foliage that is perennial in temperate climates.
  • Its ease of cultivation.
  • Its abundant and fragrant white flowers (that’s why it’s called Jazmín de Tucumán) that bloom all summer and part of the fall.

BUT IT HAS A BUT, IT IS VERY VERY INVASIVE. 

It is a climber that completely covers other species of trees, using them as a support to capture light until it covers them, it does not let the light through and of course competing at the same time with the nutrients of the soil until it ends with the host. It manages to displace a lot of native flora .

And we have it in Spain, displacing native flora due to its high invasive potential outside its place of origin. It is within the list of invasive plants that the Government of Spain updates periodically. Where it comes from, it is even appreciated because it has a high biological value because it attracts the Monarch butterfly, but here in Spain its cultivation , transport and marketing are prohibited . Let’s see its fruit.

Fruit of the other Miraguano. Photo by Katja Schulz

Once we have on the table, the three Miraguanos… We decided that… we don’t know. We sincerely incline that the properties of the fibers used for pillow filling belong to Ceiba pentandra or the latter but not to the Coccothrinax miraguama palm 

And you, do you know the miraguano? Are you sure where this fantastic textile fiber comes from? We are looking forward to hearing from you in the comments.

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

Ryan Heagle

Welcome to The GardenPure! My name is Ryan Heagle, and I’m the founder of The GardenPure, I spent the first part of my adult life teaching and then living in Australia in various business ventures, the first of which was a business devoted to the sale of house plants.  I am now a full time blogger. I am a self taught gardener.

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