Palms produce a variety of useful fibers. Shells of the coconut are covered by tough fibers which are collected by soaking the shells in saltwater to loosen the fibers. The fibers, called coir, are then beaten, washed, and combed out. Coir is used as stuffing and woven into mats. Raphia fiber is obtained from the genus Raphia by stripping the surface of young leaves. The best-known fiber palms are the rattans which belong to the large genus Calamus. Rattans are interesting palms in that they are climbers and often vine-like. Unlike many climbers, which use roots to attach themselves to their host or twining behavior to grip onto a stem, the rattans are scramblers that hoist themselves up leaf by leaf as the spiny stem hangs like a rope down to the roots. The hanging stems of many species of rattan are cleaned and split for use. Rattan is widely used for cane work such as basketry.
Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Overdamped to PeatPalms - Distribution, Structure, Food, Oil, Fiber, Ornamentals - Economic uses