For centuries, rattan has proven to be one of the most durable and environmentally friendly plants used for making furniture and one of the most desired.
Traced back in existence as far as 2500 B.C., this hardy and prolific wood can easily be used to create beautiful furniture pieces without depleting its availability. And because of its durability, it has long been the preferred choice for creating outdoor furniture that can add a tropical feel to any garden or patio.
Rattan is the general name used for roughly 600 different species that are a part of the palm family. The particular species of rattan use for making furniture comes mainly from the dense jungles of Southeast Asia. It starts to grow upward, but then bends to the ground and grows through the forest like a vine to lengths of five hundred feet or more. After about three years of growth, the vines can be cut into sections which are then dried for the making of furniture. Generally, the outer bark is stripped away from the core and used for weaving materials. The central core is usually steamed and shaped to provide the main support structures. Rattan is also considered to be one of the strongest materials available for furniture because it grows vertically as opposed to forming concentric rings like most hardwood trees.
Many times, the words rattan and wicker are used interchangeably to describe the same thing. However, there is a distinct difference between the two words. Rattan refers to a specific material, while wicker is the term for a weaving process. A rattan piece of furniture will definitely be made from all rattan, but a wicker chair may include a combination of rattan plus other materials like bamboo, reeds or willow in the weaving pattern.
There are two reasons that rattan is one of the most environmentally friendly materials that can be used for making furniture:
The prolific rate at which it grows. As opposed to most other woods, rattan can grow in very dense populations and reach harvesting age within only a few years. When it is harvested, these is much less destruction to the overall forest because it does not require the roads and heavy equipment that are necessary for removing larger trees.
The harvesting of rattan. This provides much needed income for local populations. In order to not destroy this income source, local people are motivated to protect their natural resources from other, more destructive methods of harvesting wood like clear-cutting large sections of a forest all at once.
So there is more than you may think behind good rattan furniture. It’s timeless, cultured and environmentally sound!