What Materials Are Wicker and Rattan?
The word wicker is commonly used to refer to a particular style of wicker baskets and furniture. Wicker can also refer to the material used to make those items. Wicker, however, is not an actual material in itself. Wicker is made from the weaving of natural plant fibers into objects. These plants include reed and bamboo, or synthetic materials such as resin wicker. But the plant that is used most often in the production of wicker is rattan.
What is Rattan?
Rattan is a vine-like palm native to China, Southeast Asia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. As it grows, rattan climbs along the jungle floor and up through the trees, reaching lengths of up to 600 feet. Rattan is a tremendously strong material that can achieve a width of 4 inches or more, though the poles used in wicker rattan furniture making are usually 2 to 3 inches in diameter.
What Parts of Rattan Are Used in Wicker?
Rattan found in nature usually has an outer thorny covering. These spines work like hooks to help rattan climb over other plants as it grows. The spines must be removed as rattan is harvested.
The outer skin of a rattan pole is known as the peel or cane. The peel is often used to wrap the joints of wicker chairs. It can also be used in seat weaving. Cane is naturally glossy.
The inner portion of rattan is known as reed. Reed has a grainy appearance like wood, and is commonly used in basket and furniture making. Reed is very versatile and pliant and can snap if bent excessively. Unlike peel or cane, reed is a porous material and thus can be painted or stained.
Rattan bears a superficially similar appearance to bamboo, which is also used in wicker making. However, rattan cores are solid rather than hollow, making rattan less likely to break. That is only one of the many reasons rattan remains a popular material in the construction of wicker furniture.