The nitu (Lygodium sp.) is a climbing fern that can be found creeping throughout the forests of Batanes to Mindanao, as well as neighboring parts of Southeast Asia. They are called lilit or didit in the Batanes Islands. Their thin, spiny but strong branches make these vines the perfect plant for making tight baskets.
It can average a length of around 15 meters, which makes it helpful in making a continuous weave for the basket. Because it is widespread all over the Philippines, there are several genera that can be found throughout the country that evolved within their own environment.
The ferns have produced leaflets that resemble a hand. When collecting these for basket-making, these leaves are removed but will be used for other parts of handicrafts. The young leaves may also be used to cure stomach issues due to their medicinal properties. The epidermis of the leaves is commonly brown but may turn black by putting wax treatment, although many believe that this may also be due to the plant’s aging. The darker color of the nitu adds to the basket’s value when it is made since the darker colors are commonly partnered with lighter ferns such as the white buri (Arecaceae)to provide a stark contrast of decoration.
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