The vegetable fibres can be divided into smaller groups based on their origin within the plant. Cotton, kapok, and coir are examples of fibres originating as hairs borne on the seeds or inner walls of the fruit, where each fibre consists of a single, long, narrow cell. Flax, hemp, jute, and ramie are bast fibres, occurring in the inner bast tissue of certain plant stems and made up of overlapping cells. Abaca, henequen, and sisal are fibres occurring as part of the fibrovascular system of the leaves. Chemically, all vegetable fibres consist mainly of cellulose, although they also contain varying amounts of such substances as hemicellulose, lignin, pectins, and waxes that must be removed or reduced by processing.

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