Calamus deerratus – an African rattan vine

Synonym C. laurentii:; Common names Nkau (Kongo), Rotin (Fr.), Rattan vine


A slender to moderately robust rattan palm, climbing up to 20 m high, and often forming dense clumps. The stems and leaves are armed with spines. Stems have an extended whip-like organ, called a flagella, up to 2 m long, with hooks which help the palm climb into the tops of forest trees. Canes may grow to 5 cm diameter but are usually only 1 – 3 cm. Old stems lose their thorns.


Grows in swamp and riverine forest but is less common in areas with high rainfall. It is the most widely distributed of the African rattans.


Seeds germinate better when the fleshy layer has been removed. In Ghana the plant has been successfully propagated using rhizomes, with about 20% sprouting.


In Kongo Central the stems are used to make baskets and were traditionally made into the chief’s canes. The skin of the rattan vine stem is removed with a knife and then the cane is dried. Elsewhere the canes are used to make furniture, walking sticks, belts for climbing palm trees and bored out to make flutes. The stems are also used for fencing and ties for house building. When the rind is peeled off the fibre makes a strong rope.


The stems are not as flexible as those of Eremospatha nor as large, strong, or long lasting as those of Laccosperma species.


Renier 1948, Purseglove 1972, Burkill 1997, Bongers et al. 2004, Sunderland 2007, Sunderland 2011