Friday, April 17, 2009

Thorny

While trekking into the forest, we met an elderly Bidayuh couple walking in the reverse direction. The man, who posed gallantly for the camera, was carrying some freshly collected rattan. His hands were bruised and scarred, for the sharp curved thorns of the rattan (or Rotan in Malay), are a bane to collectors and jungle trekkers alike. Getting oneself out of a tangle of backward pointing spines that lashed and latched onto the skin and fabric reqired some co-ordination which may not come naturally after hours of trekking.

Rattan is a group of weak scrambling palms which rely on hooks on elongated leaf tips to cling onto branches and tree trunks. There are about 13 genuses of up to a hundred plus species in all. The stems became long and flexible, since they no longer bear the weight, and the internode elongate at great speed. In fact, the longest stem of a climbing plant was recorded for a Calamus manan, reported by Forestry Department of Malaysa as 556 feet ; Corner had reported that there was an even longer plant, but it was torn to bits by an elephant before it could be measured. Apparently, disdain for this plant is quite universal.
This is from the peeled bark of a fallen branch...vicious isn't it ? Even in modern times, in this part of the world, we can still purchase fine smoothened rattan cane for less than a dollar to punish kids who had erred. A little whip on the open palm brings instantaneous submission, very effective ! Kids from the West really had it good....

The fast growing and flexible nature of the stem has made it a popular material in natives crafts and baskets. More recently, the West has also discovered its usefullness in lightweight hall and patio furniture which I believe is more ecologically sustainable than hardwood, since they grow like weeds.

If only we can breed a plant without the thorns ....

Ref E.J.HF Corner, The Natural History of Palms

12 comments:

Hermes said...

Really interesting - thanks. I keep looking at that bridge - no way, thanks.

Hort Log said...

Just don't look down... : )

Claude said...

I always thought it was a plain ole ordinary palm... interesting!

islaverde said...

A rattan without thorns will surely die as it wriggles on its smooth belly on the forest floor trying to get a grip onto a tree without its climbing aid.

Hort Log said...

U r right of course Isla, but perhaps in a more forgiving plantation setting we can let it survive....just so we can harvest it easily.

Anonymous said...

Western kids still get the cane, it's not as easy as you think.

Hort Log said...

well Anon, I guess I am glad to hear parents have the same right there....

....cheers : p

r l n ! said...

Yes, i would cross that bridge :) it's probably as good a "ride" as a roller coaster. If those two could do it, so can we Westerners, eh? Was it a long bridge? And did YOU walk across and take photos while you were in the middle of it? :D

Hort Log said...

nahh....that was nothing. The long one was in my previous post http://hortlog.blogspot.com/2008/08/dayak-bamboo-bridge.html and http://hortlog.blogspot.com/2008/08/more-about-dayak-bamboo-bridge.html ....

....and of course we had to cross all of them. Actually, 1 month after our trip, another party consisting of some Caucasians fell into the water when the bridge broke, so we were lucky

Susan Graham said...

Thanks for sharing this useful information with all of us.Keep sharing more in the future.
Have a nice time ahead.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

This is a lovely post...something I would really like to see for myself when I travel into the ulu...thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I kust can't understand, the text is so cool, but there are no interesting comments conserning this topic!
I'll recommend that to my friends and I think they will like it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails