Rattan (from the Malay
rotan), is the name for the roughly 600 species of palms in the tribe
Calameae, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia.
Most rattans differ from other palms in having slender stems, 2–5 cm
diameter, with long internodes between the leaves; also, they are not
trees but are vine-like, scrambling through and over other vegetation.
Rattans are also superficially similar to bamboo. Unlike bamboo, rattan
stems ("malacca") are solid, and most species need structural support
and cannot stand on their own. However, some genera (e.g. Metroxylon,
Pigafetta, Raphia) are more like typical palms, with stouter, erect
trunks. Many rattans have spines which act as hooks to aid climbing over
other plants, and to deter herbivores. Rattans have been known to grow
up to hundreds of metres long. Most (70%) of the world's rattan
population exist in Indonesia, distributed among Borneo, Sulawesi,
Sumbawa islands. The rest of the world's supply comes from the
Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh. In forests where rattan
grows, its economic value can help protect forest land, by providing an
alternative to loggers who forgo timber logging and harvest rattan canes
instead. Rattan is much easier to harvest, requires simpler tools and is
much easier to transport. It also grows much faster than most tropical
wood. This makes it a potential tool in forest maintenance, since it
provides a profitable crop that depends on rather than replaces trees.
It remains to be seen whether rattan can be as profitable or useful as
Generally, raw rattan is processed into several products to be
used as materials in furniture making. The various species of
rattan range from several millimetres up to 5–7 cm in diameter.
From a strand of rattan, the skin is usually peeled off, to be
used as rattan weaving material. The remaining "core" of the
rattan can be used for various purposes in furniture making.
Rattan is a very good material mainly because it is lightweight,
durable, and to a certain extent flexible.
are extensively used for making furniture and baskets. Cut into
sections, rattan can be used as wood to make furniture. Rattan
accepts paints and stains like many other kinds of wood, so it
is available in many colours; and it can be worked into many
styles. Moreover, the inner core can be separated and worked
its durability and resistance to splintering, sections of rattan
can be used as staves or canes for martial arts – 70-cm. long
rattan sticks, called baston, are used in Filipino martial arts,
especially Modern Arnis and Eskrima. Rattan is generally the
only material accepted for the construction of striking weapons
in Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) martial combat. Along
with birch and bamboo, rattan is a common material used for the
handles in percussion mallets, especially mallets for keyboard
percussion (vibraphone, xylophone, marimba, etc.). The fruit of
some rattans exudes a red resin called dragon's blood. This
resin was thought to have medicinal properties in antiquity and
was also used as a dye for violins, among other things. The
resin normally results in a wood with a light peach hue.