Wicker vs. Rattan

porch scene


It’s a hot summer day – finally and I’m thinking of porches and lemonade!  This got me thinking about the difference between Wicker, Cane and Rattan.  I did a little digging and here is what I learned:

Wicker: Wicker is the type of weaving we often see on porch furniture, usually woven with cane, rattan, bamboo, reeds, rushes, willow or banana leaf.  (Well this answered one question!)  It was very popular in England during the Victorian era and gained popularity in the U.S. in the early 1900s.  Wicker baskets and stools have been found, however, in ancient Egypt and the ruins of Pompeii.  Today, the same weaving techniques are used with recycled materials as well.


wicker table 1890's


antique wicker chair

Rattan: Rattan is actually a jungle vine found in Southeast Asia, a relative of the palm tree.  It has a vertical grain and is a very strong wood. It can be steamed to shape into curves and although it grows in a variety of natural colors, it can also be painted –like the Victorians liked to do.  The palm vines can grow up to 600 feet long and are cut when they are 7 to 10 years old.  The vine is usually cut about three feet above the ground and this remaining shoot continues to grow – ready to be harvested again in another 7 years or so.

Cane:  Cane is the outer layer of bark on the rattan plant under a thorny exterior layer.  When the cane is harvested from the rattan palm, it is processed into different sized strips that can be woven into furniture (usually seats and backs of wood frame furniture), wrapped around the joints in pole-rattan pieces, or woven into baskets.


weaving a rattan chair

Rattan furniture, therefore, is constructed only out of rattan and it very strong because of rattan’s solid core.  (So strong that there are bridges made of it!) It does fade in the sun so its recommended use is indoors.


Rattan Bridge

Because wicker is a technique that can be done with many materials, wicker furniture may or may not be strong.  If it is painted or made with synthetic materials that don’t fade, it can be out on the porch!  Of course there are many antique wicker pieces out there and they should be treated with care and protected from harsh elements (sun, rain, snow, unruly children!)

Happy relaxing!


contemporary rattan table and chairs


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