Cane

03_Cana_02

Cane (also named ‘giant reed’) grows in damp soils, either fresh or moderately saline, and is native to the Greater Middle East. It has been widely planted and naturalized in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres, especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean and is considered an invasive species in several regions, including Portugal.

Name of Material in the local and Latin language
Cana, Arundo donax L.
Type of Material
Organic
Commonly Found Locations
As an invasive plant, it grows almost anywhere there is water nearby

Colour
From greyish-green to glaucescent (of a bluish green coloration). The culms go from green to light brown as they desiccate.
Density
1.168 g/cm3 of stem density (SD), according to Fiore, Scalici & Valenza (2014).
Hardness
The dry culms of Arundo donax are very resistant and have a long history of use by farmers throughout rural Portugal (and other south European countries). Often used to build windbreak fences and structures for the support of climbing crops (e.g. beans, cucumber, and tomatoes), cane is often serving the same purposes as bamboo species in tropical areas (including the fabrication of wind instruments).
Structure
Cane grows up to 5 m (sometimes higher) and have thick walled, hollow internodes. Its resistance to compression and torsion (but not so much to flexion) makes it an often used construction material, whether by using its complete or [longitudinally] splitted culms (as it is used in basketry).
Chemical Composition
According to Fiore, Scalici & Valenza (2014), the principal constituents of the stem of Arundo plants are cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin.

Industrial and Crafts Applications
Cane is used in utilitarian and decorative basketry.
Historical or Cultural Uses
Historically, cane was utilised to craft baskets directly associated with fishing and trade.
Environmental Impact
The cane has a negative impact on the environment due to the fact that it is among the fastest-growing terrestrial plants in the world (nearly 10 centimetres per day). To present knowledge, Cane does not provide any food sources or nesting habitats for wildlife. Replacement of native plant communities by Cane results in low-quality habitat and altered ecosystem functioning. Highly flammable throughout the year, and during the drier months of the year, it can increase the probability, intensity, and spread of wildfires. The harvest of this raw-material helps fight its negative impact.

Extraction Methods
Cane is cut by hand with a sickle between October and February.
Processing Techniques
After being harvested, the cane is cleaned with the help of a knife to remove all the leaves and knots. Afterward, it is split into thinner strips (thickness depends on the piece that the craftsperson wants to produce). Cane is a very sharp material, and therefore, the preparation process has to be done carefully to avoid cutting the hands.
Sustainability and Environmental Considerations
As a fast-growing, flammable plant, harvesting it provides a means to clean the fields throughout the year.
Recycling and Waste Management
100% biodegradable if not mixed with any chemical product or material.

Interesting Facts or Historical Anecdotes
The production of cane basketry was predominantly centred in the South of Portugal, primarily as a male-dominated craft. Some nomadic groups were also known to engage in cane basketry to generate additional income by selling baskets.
  • PT_Cana_Nature Profile_04©Jenna Duffy

    Cane (Arundo donax L.) grows in damp soils, either fresh or moderately saline, and is native to the Greater Middle East.

  • PT_Cana_Nature Profile_01©Jenna Duffy

    Cane has been widely planted and naturalized in the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres, especially in the Mediterranean, California, the western Pacific and the Caribbean and is considered an invasive species in several regions, including Portugal.

This giant reed thrives in areas close to water, such as streams, ponds, rivers, and is distributed in Portugal mainly in the Algarve and central coast.

It propagates through roots or rhizomes and spreads quickly, which causes changes in natural systems. This is mainly worrying because it causes difficulties in water drainage, increasing the risk of flooding, hence the need to control its growth, namely through the massive use of this material.

It is among the fastest-growing terrestrial plants in the world (nearly 10 centimetres per day), and to present knowledge, it does not provide any food sources or nesting habitats for wildlife. The replacement of native plant communities by Cane results in low-quality habitat and altered ecosystem functioning. Also highly flammable throughout the year and during the drier months of the year, it can increase the probability, intensity, and spread of wildfires, so harvesting it provides a means to clean the fields throughout the year.

To be worked, cane offers, however, more difficulties than other natural fibers, as it is not possible to acquire local material already prepared, forcing practitioners to collect it from the riverbanks and invest time and work in its preparation, a fact that is seen as an additional constraint of this activity: it is necessary to invest in preparing the material, going to the riverbanks to collect, to lath and clean. Furthermore, in riverbanks you need to know how to choose straight canes, with a similar degree of maturity, to have the same thickness and hardness and also harvest the canes at the right time.
Cane is cut by hand with a sickle between October and February and, after being harvested, it is cleaned with the help of a knife to remove all the leaves and knots, and split into thinner strips (thickness depends on the piece that the craftsperson wants to produce). As Cane is a very sharp material, the preparation process has to be done carefully to avoid cutting the hands.

The production of cane basketry was predominantly centred in the South of Portugal, primarily as a male-dominated craft and was historically utilized to craft baskets directly associated with fishing and trade. Some nomadic groups were also known to engage in cane basketry to generate additional income by selling baskets. The best-selling product today is the oval shaped basket with a lid, made world famous by British-French actress and singer Jane Birkin, and traditionally used to transport and store vegetables, eggs or fruit. 

References: 
Fiore, V., T. Scalici & A. Valenza (2014). Characterization of a new natural fiber from Arundo donax L. as potential reinforcement of polymer composites. Carbohydrate Polymers 106 (Junho 15): 77–83. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2014.02.016.
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