The name “esparto grass” refers to two species of perennial plants in the grass (Poaceae) family, Stipa tenacissima and Lygeum spartum. Both species are native to the Western Mediterranean, primarily North Africa and the southern Iberian Peninsula.  Both are cultivated for the leaf fiber, called esparto, which is woven to make a wide variety of items, including: sandals (called espadrilles), baskets (like the one shown below, used for picking snails), mats, ropes, and canteens.  In Spain, there is a long and treasured cultural tradition surrounding the craft of weaving esparto.  Esparto grass is also pulped to make high-quality paper. Because of its high tolerance for saline soils, the grass is also used to stabilize sand dunes, and for soil rehabilitation.

Photo credits: A snail basket woven from esparto grass (courtesy of Wikimedia commons), a variety of items made from esparto (courtesy of Shutterstock)

Featured image: Esparto grass (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

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