Photo: By Author
It is early morning and the previous night’s shower has flattened most of the garden, but the Monstera (Monstera deliciosa), or the fruit salad plant, glistens in the morning light. Its large glossy leaves, come in a variety of shapes and it echoes its name, with its monstrous and massive leaf size. Native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico, south of Panama, its alternative botanical name is Philodendron. And Deliciosa means delicious, referring to the edible fruit which grow once the plant matures. A popular foliage plant, easily recognised by its large glossy leaves, that are dissected with deep slits and some varieties are perforated with oblong holes.
Susy Mathew an avid plant lover says, “The name is scary, but the foliage is pretty. Since it is a relative of the money plant, hope the owners get monstrous heaps of money as well,” she laughs. A member of the Arum family, the Monstera has aerial roots and is able to grow up to 20 m high with large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves nine to 35 inches long by 25 to 75 cm broad.
Interestingly, young plants have leaves that are smaller but grow with no holes, but soon produce lobed leaves. The leaves in that stage are called shingle leaves.
The vine could be planted against a tree trunk like in the picture, then they start to grow up towards the light, creeping up the tree.
Arun Kumar N. a B.Sc. student says: “The Monstera deliciosa is a wonderful foliage plant to grow under shade and indoors as well. Its huge, luxurious dark green leaves are an exhilarating sight to behold in the garden. The vine climbs tree trunks or walls with the help of aerial roots that cling. Leaves look different at different stages of growth.”
Today, the Monstera is commonly grown to enhance interiors in hotels and large offices and also as a houseplant.
In ideal conditions it flowers about three years after it is planted. Flowering is rare when grown indoors and the plant can be easily propagated by taking cuttings of a mature plant and planting them in some home-made compost. That is how many of us Bangaloreans have grown Monsteras. Ranjini Kamath who lives on Brunton Road shares: “I grew one beautiful Monstera climber in a pot, and I had visitors actually exclaim and ask me if I cut the leaves to give it the slotted shape! Extremely striking and glossy-looking, the plant should be left to stand alone for maximum effect.”
The fruit of Monstera deliciosa looks like a green ear of maize covered with hexagonal scales.
The flesh, which is similar to the pineapple in texture, can be cut away from the core of the flower and eaten. It has a fruity taste similar to the jackfruit. But beware, the latex of the leaves and vines can cause a rash on the skin, because both contain potassium oxalate. In fact, all parts of Monstera deliciosa are poisonous except the ripe fruits.