Rattan is the name for the roughly hundred species of palms in the tribe Calameae, native to tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australia. Most rattans are distinct from other palms in having slender stems 2–5 cm diameter with long inter-nodes between the leaves; their consequent growth habit also differs, not being trees but vine-like, scrambling through and over other vegetation.
They are also superficially similar to bamboo, but distinct in that the stems (“Malacca”) are solid, rather than hollow, and also in their need for some sort of support; while bamboo can grow on its own, rattan cannot. Many rattans are spiny, the spines acting as hooks to aid climbing over other plants, and also 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, Celebes, Sumbawa islands.
In the 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, requiring simpler tools and also much easier to transport. Furthermore, compared to most tropical wood, rattan is much faster growing. This makes it a potential tool in forest maintenance, since it provides a profitable crop that depends on rather than replaces trees. Whether it can be as profitable or useful as the alternatives, however, remains to be seen.
Generally, raw rattan is processed into several products to be used as materials in furniture making. The various species of rattan ranges 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. (source:http://itpc.indonesiavancouver.org)