Esparto, or esparto grass, Macrochloa tenacissima (syn. Stipa tenacissima), is a perennial grass of northwestern Africa and the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula. It is used for crafts, such as cords, basketry, and espadrilles. Other common names include halfah grass and needle grass.
It is used for fiber production for paper making. The fiber makes a high quality paper often used in book manufacturing. First used in Great Britain in 1850, it has been extensively used there and in Europe, but is rarely found in the United States because of the cost of transport. It is usually combined with five to ten percent wood pulp.
The "Spanish" grade is usually regarded as the higher-quality, while the "Tripoli" grade, from Africa, is the lesser in quality. The fibers are fairly short in relation to their width, yet do not create any significant amount of dust. Because of the short fiber length, the tensile strength of the paper is less than that of many other papers, but its resistance to shrinkage and stretching is superior, and the paper is a well-filled, dense paper with excellent inking qualities. It also has very good folding properties.