The leaves contain saponins and an extract of them can be used as a soap. It is best obtained by chopping up the leaves and then simmering them in water - do not boil for too long or this will start to break down the saponins[K]. A very strong fibre obtained from the leaves is used for making rope, coarse fabrics etc. To make hair brushes and brushes for cleaning, the dried matter of a dead and rotten leaf was knocked free from the fibres, which were then bent in two. the upper end of this brush was wrapped with a cord and the bent portion was covered with a cloth. The loose fibres were cut to the right length and hardened by burning the ends. A paper can also be made from the fibre in the leaves. The thorns on the leaves are used as pins and needles. The dried flowering stems are used as a waterproof thatch and as a razor strop.
Seed - surface sow in a light position, April in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse until they are at least 20cm tall. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[K]. Offsets can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established.
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Requires a very well-drained soil and a sunny position. Plants are only hardy on the south coast of England, where they succeed from Torbay westwards. A monocarpic species, the plant lives for a number of years without flowering but dies once it does flower. However, it normally produces plenty of suckers during its life and these take about 10 - 15 years in a warm climate, considerably longer in colder ones, before flowering. This plant is widely used by the native people in its wild habitat, it has a wide range of uses. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer.
Problems, pests & diseases
Associations & Interactions
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Polycultures & Guilds
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