Rattan is a naturally renewable palm that grows in the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia, and is used for furniture, handicrafts, and building material among others. There are 631 known species of rattan and typically have strong, solid stalks that grow several centimeters thick in diameter, and the leaves have barbed tips that support the plants to climb over trees and other plants toward the sunlight in the rainforest. Most rattans are native to the tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australasia, but the majority of rattan grows in Indonesia. In the Philippines, rattan is naturally found in the country’s dipterocarp forests and are distributed throughout the country. Four genera, namely Calamus, Daemonorops, Korthalsia and Plectocomia, with 64 species are found in the country (PCARRD, 1991). Calamus, with 44 species and 23 varieties, is the largest of the four genera. It is widely distributed, but some species are narrow endemics and confined to specific islands or mountains. Daemonorops is the second largest group of Philippine rattans. There are 14 species and one variety under this genus. Like Calamus, they are widely distributed but many are confined to islands and mountains. Korthalsia consists of only five species. Members of this genus have a more restricted distribution. Three species are only found in Palawan, two species in Mindanao and one species in Luzon, Polillo Island and in Mindanao. Plectocomia has the smallest number of members. It consists of two species. Members of this genus are confined to the primary rainforests of Palawan, Leyte and Mindanao.
Originally called “rotan” in Malay, hundreds of uses have been developed to utilize the stem of the plant. Furniture, ornaments, keepsakes, and even weapons have been developed and their use is ever increasing. These tropical vines are easier to harvest than timber, easier to transport and grows faster than tress, thus making it a very attractive resource. It is a great alternative to wood furniture and for years it has been used to make the best furnishings in home or in the outdoors. Because of its flexibility to a certain extent, a lot of creativity can be exercised in the use of rattan in furniture making, particularly the rattan core. Almost all parts of the rattan can be used. The skin of rattan strands is peeled off the core and used for weaving. The remaining stems are then processed further, split into small diameters and become the basic material of rattan furniture.
Some species of rattan are edible, and some bear edible fruit. Like bamboo, the shoots could be turned into delicacies. The fruit on the other hand, resembles a scaly egg and tastes sweetly sour. It is not popularly known that the fruits can be eaten, it is even rarer cultivated because of its fruits. In the Philippine markets, rattan fruits are an uncommon sight and finding one may be hard.
In 2015, the Philippines was the world’s fifth largest exporter of bamboo and rattan products (considering the EU as a whole), with a total export value of USD 34 million. The Philippines’ main bamboo and rattan product export categories in 2015 were rattan basketwork (worth about USD 11.55 million), bamboo and rattan seats (USD 9.41 million), and rattan raw materials (at USD 5.95 million). [UN COMTRADE Database]