Botanical specimens of the plant
Photograph by: Annals of the Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta. Vol. 12 Part 2 1916
Korthalsia debilis is a spiny, evergreen, climbing palm producing a cluster of very slender stems 5 - 10mm in diameter. Unbranched in its lower parts, the stem often produces a number of branches in the canopy where it can form considerable entanglements. The stem is very slender towards the base, but new growth gradually thickens, reaching its greatest diameter at the upper end at the time of flowering[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a source of material for basket making and weaving, possibly also as a food.
Many species in this genus have ants living on them in structures evolved by the plant known as ocreas. In some species the ants can be very aggressive[
Southeast Asia - Malaysia, Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo)
Lowland dipterocarp forest[
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A monocarpic species, it can grow for many years without flowering, then flowers prolifically before setting seed and dying. The flowers are produced in panicles at the ends of the stems[
Many species n this genus have a close association with ants that make their nests within swollen structures in the leaf sheaths known as ocreas. The ant-rattan relationship also seems to involve the presence of scale insects that are husbanded by the ants for honey dew on young rattan tissue. Ants occupying the ocreas of some species can be extremely aggressive[
The fruit of all members of this genus is more or less edible. It is sometimes eaten, but there is little flesh and it is therefore more likely to be used as a famine food when little else is available[
All members of the genus produce long and very durable canes and are used to make some of the most durable and attractive carrying baskets in southeast Asia. Unfortunately, the inner epidermis of the leaf sheaths adheres to the stem, making it difficult to clean and leaving the stem lacking the attractive, shiny appearance of many Calamus species. In addition, the nodes are frequently very irregular and marked with shallow pits or the remains of branches The canes are very widely used locally and often traded, but not usually more widely than local markets[
Large diameter canes are used for purposes such as large fish traps and the framework of cheap furniture. Smaller diameter canes can be used whole or split for binding, weaving etc[
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