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"Drinking Water from the Rattan Vine" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on extracting drinking water from the rattan vine was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 34, September 23, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. General

Officers returning from the S. W. Pacific area, report that good drinking water is hard to find in the jungle. A source of excellent water exists in many jungle areas in the shape of the rattan vine, from which a copious water-supply may be drawn by cutting off a section of the vine and allowing the water to run out of the severed section into a canteen cup. While the fact that this vine will supply water, together with a description of the rattan palm-vine, appeared in Technical Training Manual 10-420*, page 16, a more complete description of the plant and its potentiality as a supplier of good drinking water appears to be desirable. The information upon which this account is based was furnished through the courtesy of Dr. E.H. Walker of the Smithsonian Institution and Dr. E.D. Merrill, Director of the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University.

b. A Word of Caution

While other tropical vines produce drinkable water, and possibly sap from most vines that do not produce a milky juice may be drunk in extreme emergency, they are not to be recommended unless used by local natives. All rattans, however, are safe, and while the rattan vine-palm is usually found in the higher jungles, it occurs also in coastal jungles where most of our forces are now operating.

c. The Rattan Palm

There are many different kinds of rattan palm; all are climbing palms, with vine-like characteristics, see sketch. It will be noted that out of the tips of the palm leaves, the central stem is prolonged into a vine which may be from 100 to 250 feet long, and vary in thickness from the diameter of a pencil to 2 1/2 inches. These vines, as many a soldier knows to his sorrow, are supplied with very sharp, hard, claw-like teeth similar to rose thorns, growing out of their shoots or tendrils, or from the leaf stems. Incidentally, the lower foot or two of the trunk of the palm contains some starch. These lower parts, which are slightly thickened, may be roasted and the baked starch "chewed out." Rattan vines may run along the ground or climb high on jungle trees. Those found low and in the shade give a cooler water than the vines exposed to hot sunlight,

[Rattan Palm Vine]

d. How To Tap the Vine

To tap the vine, chop off a thick section from two to eight feet long, making the upper cut first. Never make the lower cut first. Hold the cut segment, butt end down over a canteen cup, when the sap will begin to drip or flow out. When the flow ceases, cut off a foot or more from the top end--more water will trickle out. This process may be repeated until there is no more water left in the stem.

*Published by the War Department and known as Emergency Food Plants and Poisonous Plants of the Islands of the Pacific.


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