The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Rattan

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RATTAN, răt-tăn, a product of Calamus rotang, a scandent palm of Ceylon, but also found in India and Burma. While this species furnishes the best commercial rattan, there are about 200 species in this genus, inhabiting tropical and subtropical Asia, Africa and Australia. The most important species other than the above are C. rudentum, C. pachystemonus and C. radiatus, abounding throughout the damp forests of Ceylon up to 3,500 feet elevation. C. rotang and the first two species named above are manufactured into a great variety of useful articles such as baskets, chairs, the hoods of carts, and when split into strips can be twisted into cordage of great strength. C. rotang is often used in Eastern countries for rope bridges, or, used entire, is stretched across rivers as the supports of suspension bridges; and is also employed for the manufacture of Malacca canes. In China rattan is a favorite material for cordage, and the material also enters into the manufacture of umbrella handles and ribs, and as a substitute for whalebone. The cane is used for saddlery and harness and for wicker-work helmets, said to be sword-proof. The two smaller species (C. pachystemonus and C. radiatus) are largely employed in the manufacture of baskets for the Ceylon tea gardens, used in picking the tea leaves. C. radiatus supplies the material for chair bottoms, being split into thin strips. In fact the many uses of rattan in Eastern countries are almost nameless. In the United States rattan is largely used for manufacturing chairs and other furniture, for chair-seating, baby-carriage bodies, baskets, floor mattings, brooms, corset-stays, whips and many other uses of minor importance. The “reed” used in raffia fancy-basket manufacture is the split inner portion of rattan dressed in cylindrical form like the true reeds. See also Fibre.