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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 internode 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 Indonesiamarker, distributed among Borneomarker, Sulawesimarker, Sumbawamarker islands. The rest of the world's supply comes from the Philippinesmarker, Sri Lankamarker, Malaysiamarker and Bangladeshmarker.

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 the alternatives.

Uses

A rattan chair.
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.

Rattans 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 into wicker.

Due to 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.

Caning

The flexibility and durability of rattan canes make them an effective instrument for inflicting disciplinary pain. A rattan 4ft long (1.2 m) and half an inch thick is used for judicial corporal punishment in Malaysia, Singapore, and Bruneimarker. It is soaked in water before use to make it heavier and even more whippy. This punishment is delivered to the offender's bare buttocks. It was a rattan (not bamboo, as widely misreported) that was used for the caning of Michael P. Fay in 1994. It is also used to discipline recalcitrant soldiers in the Singapore Armed Forces: see Caning in Singapore#Military caning.

A somewhat thinner rattan cane was the standard implement for school corporal punishment in England and Wales, and is still used for this purpose in schools in Singapore, Malaysia and several African countries: see School corporal punishment#Geographical scope.

It can also be used for torture or for pleasure, as in BDSM contexts.

References

  1. "rattan" at Encyclopedia.com.
  2. Judicial caning in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei at World Corporal Punishment Research.



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