What exactly is a Loofa? or Loofah? or Luffa?

loofa-vines.jpgDid you know that Loofas are grown in the garden, not in the Sea or a factory? Loofah is an edible cucumber-type plant that when left to dry naturally produces a wonderful bathing tool for exfoliating dead skin and stimulates blood circulation and that is why we make our famous Loofa Soap. Many different methods are use to harvest loofa. Most loofas today are bleached, boiled and dried, creating a hard dense, scratchy loofa. Our loofas are NOT bleached and NOT boiled and therefore have a light density of fibers that gently exfoliate. 

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Many people think the Loofa is a Sea creature, like a sea sponge.  It's not.  Here at Earthly Delight we are not afraid to say that we are totally against using Sea Sponges for bathing tools. They are living creatures and we think most people simply are not aware of this fact. 

 

The Loofa, on the other hand, is an edible cucumber-type plant that when left to dry naturally produces a wonderful bathing tool.  So, when using our all Natural Loofa products your body can feel GREAT with it's amazing exfoliating properties and your mind can feel GREAT knowing a little creature didn't have to sacrifice his/her cute little life for you to enjoy your bath!

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We are all familiar with sponges - those soft, colorful and handy workhorses easily obtainable at the local market.  But does the average bathing beauty know that their sea sponges are actually the skeletons of a once living sea creature?

Until the mid-1700’s, the texture and appearance of sponges suggested they were plants. Zoologists eventually debunked this theory, re-classifying the sea sponge as a simple multi-cellular, bottom-dwelling animal called “Porifera”. The word means “pore-bearing” and refers to the many tiny openings or holes visible on all sponges. There are 3 additional sub-species of Porifera: the Calcispongiae, the Hyalospongiae, and the Demospongiae. Sponges are found in every ocean of the world, particularly the Antarctic, and can thrive in not only shallow waters but the deepest regions of the seas, including sea caves where there’s little or no light. There are even some varieties that live in fresh water locations. Scientists have identified approximately 5000 species of sponges thus far.

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Most sea sponges attach themselves to coral, rocks or rock walls, shell beds and other hard or stable surfaces along the ocean floor. There are a few varieties that are free-standing, however, like the Barrel sponge. All sponges are commonly referred to as “filter feeders”, that is, they capture and digest bacteria, plankton, and other organic particulates floating in the water. The outer holes or pores of a sponge are called “ostia”. These lead to larger internal pores called “oscula”. Inside these larger canals are still more chambers, all lined with “collar cells”, the tops of which are funnel shaped. Very tiny appendages called “flagellum” hang from these specialized funnels and as these flagellum beat back and forth, they force water inside the sponge. Nutrients and oxygen are absorbed and wastes and carbon monoxide are eventually filtered out. Still other cells called “amebocytes” transport these filtered nutrients further inside the sponge.

Most sponges are hermaphrodites, that is, a single sponge can display either male or female tendencies as required. They release living young through the outgoing oscula. The new-born baby sponges resemble plankton and after a few days of free floating will attach themselves to a hard surface and begin to grow. Sponges have a life span of a few months to 20 years or more. They also have the ability to regenerate into new individuals from even the tiniest fragments of the original. This is of particular value when sponge habitats begin to degrade or can no longer support the growing population or if food supplies suddenly diminish. When any of these variables occur the sponges fragment and lie dormant until such time as growing conditions once again become ideal.

sea_creature1_thumb.jpgThis was a Living creature,  not a bathing tool.  Sea sponges come in many different shapes and sizes and literally every color of the rainbow depending on their location. Some look like thin, swaying tree branches or floating bushes. Others resemble shapely urns or vases. Still others look like floating cylindrical tubes or swaying fans. There are even some sponges that resemble common flowers like the tulip and still more that have no definitive shape at all. While most sponges grow to only a few centimetres, there are certain species that balloon to many times the size of a man. (Whoa!) Scientists believe that age, environmental conditions and food supply may be related to the size certain sponges achieve. 

In some areas of the ocean like the warmer waters around Australia there are large sponge gardens that all manner of sea life call home. Like earthbound gardens, sponge gardens are delicate habitats. Even the tiniest change in conditions can impact these floating aquatic ecosystems. Pollution, introduced species, over-harvesting by sponge divers, and the warming of the oceans over the last few decades is having an increasingly negative impact on sponges and sponge gardens. Commercial harvesting of sponges is done either by manual hooking, harpooning or more automated deepwater fishing. Once the sponges have been cleaned of all their living cells, these animal “skeletons” are ready for sale.

Before the advent of the synthetic age early Mediterranean and European civilizations used the natural sea sponge for many daily tasks like painting, washing and sweeping floors or as a way to gather drinking water when cups or other vessels were unavailable. Roman soldiers used them to line their helmets and doctors and healers used the burnt sponge as a therapeutic aid for certain maladies.  Sea sponges, or Porifera, are colourful, simple-celled, filter feeding animals, not plants, that grow in every ocean in the world.

More than 1,000 of the world's top marine scientists have called for a moratorium on deep-sea trawling that destroys coral and sponge ecosystems rich in life.  Scientists recently discovered coral in the cold and deep ocean habitats of Japan, Tasmania, New Zealand, Alaska, British Columbia, California, Nova Scotia, Maine, North Carolina, Florida, Colombia, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, U.K., Ireland and Mauritania. .

An immediate UN moratorium is needed to give scientists time to learn more about the diversity, importance and vulnerability of deep-sea coral.

Bottom trawling in particular gouges coral and sponges by dragging heavy chains, nets and steel plates across the ocean floor. The trawlers search for valuable, increasingly rare groupers and redfish that live in reefs, as well as shrimp, cod, orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.  "Because deep-sea corals are so slow-growing, they'll take centuries to recover, if ever," said biology Prof. Martin Willison of Dalhousie University in Halifax.  "In Canada's Maritime provinces, hook-and-line fishermen, who use more sustainable fishing methods, have led efforts to protect crucial sea floor habitat. But Canada's government, like the U.S.A.'s, has utterly failed to curb destructive fishing practices such as trawling," he added in a release.

Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Norway should be commended as they have taken the first steps towards protecting coral ecosystems under their jurisdiction. 

 

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