Wicker, Resin Wicker, and Rattan
Contrary to widespread belief, the word wicker does not refer to a specific plant or type of wood. Wicker chairs are made from various types of hard, woven plant fibers. The vines, grasses, and plants that go into making wicker furniture vary from rattan to cane, bamboo, reed, willow, and today, even synthetic fibers.
The word wicker comes to us from Middle English via Eastern Scandinavia. In Swedish, the word viker means willow, and the word vika means bend. Wicker is thus a material made from willow or other organic plants that are bent into the shapes of wicker baskets or wicker accent furniture.
The use of wicker in wicker storage construction dates back millennia, at least as far as the ancient civilizations of Egypt. Wicker furniture is light, strong, and inexpensive, making it ideal for outdoor use.
Many outdoor wicker furniture items are now made from resin wicker rather than cane wicker. Though it looks similar to traditional wicker, resin wicker is made from synthetic polyethylene or polypropylene resin fibers that offer greater weather resistance than natural wicker. Resin wicker is also referred to as all-weather wicker because of its extra resistance to the elements. Resin wicker furniture is commonly made by weaving resin wicker around a natural rattan frame.
Rattan refers to the hundreds of species of palms native to Africa, Asia, and Australasia. Rattan appears similar to bamboo, except that unlike bamboo, rattan stems are solid rather than hollow.
Rattan is a very durable material that can be painted or stained like wood. Rattan is thus commonly used to manufacture outdoor wicker furniture, either separately or in conjunction with other materials such as resin wicker.