The Plant Giving Life to Your Bag


The Hana plant yields the core raw material all Kantala products are made of. In this blog post we are writing an in depth introduction to the Hana plant.

300 years ago, the first weavers of Henavala understood that the material used for weaving had to be flexible but strong and colourless - enabling them to dye in a desired colour. One plant, “Niyanda”, yielded a fibre which is very fine and soft whilst being strong and colourless. Known in English as snake plant (Sansevieria zeylanica), it grew abundantly in the dry and rocky areas close to the village.

Niyanda (snake plant, Sansevieria zeylanica) plants

However, 300 years later owing to the growth in population and the changes in the environment, the Niyanda plant is no longer readily available to harvest. The plant is now confined to the protected forest reserves. Therefore, in the latter part of the 1900s the villagers had to move to an alternative source of fibre. 

 

This is where the Hana plant (Agave cantala) steps into the picture. With thick, long and prickly leaves growing in a rosette, the plant yields a very strong but fine and translucent fibre. Each rosette will flower once and dies afterwards. Until the rosette flowers, it is possible to harvest leaves without killing the plant. This makes Hana a sustainable source of fibre. 

   

Rosettes of Hana growing on a rock slab (left)     |     Harvesting Hana leaves from a well grown rosette (right)

When the plant flowers, a long scape grows from the centre of the rosette up to about 4-6 meters in height. Flowers sprout along this scape. The flowers turn into small bulb like pods. While the pod is still attached to the scape, it will germinate with the first leaves appearing from within the pod. Gradually, the pods will start to drop from the scape and scatter around the mother plant. Each plant can yield several hundred pods.

Once the seedlings are planted, it takes about 3 years for the Hana plant to be ready for its first harvest. Depending on how leaves are harvested, each plant can yield one harvests one to two year. 

      
Scape growing from a Hana rosette (left)  |  Bulb like pods (centre)  |  Germinated pods yet to fall off scape (right)

The Hana plant is recognised by the villagers for its other uses. When grown together, the Hana plants make for a great bio-fence. Its thick prickly rosette helps to keep away wild animals - even elephants and wild boar - which are notorious for destroying cultivated land. As the plant is naturally adapt at growing in the dry and arid regions of the country, no watering or fertilising is required for the plant to grow.

Today, as a sustainable source the Hana plant carries on its shoulders the handwoven mat, providing its key material. We at Kantala from the very beginning felt that the Hana plant is due a special place in our story. Therefore, we decided to name the brand after the Sanskrit name of the plant.

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