Plant Collector: Monstera deliciosa

Monstera deliciosa - commonly known as the fruit salad plant

Monstera deliciosa – commonly known as the fruit salad plant

Most people know this as the fruit salad plant, widely grown as an indoor plant though more likely in commercial spaces because they grow quite large. However, it isn’t completely tender and can be grown outdoors as long as it is free of frost or snow. It puts out aerial roots and climbs without doing damage to the host tree. Some of ours are now maybe 10 metres up, giving a luxuriant, tropical effect. Each leaf is about 70cm across and lengthways.

If you look carefully, you can spot the fruit in the photo. There are two green phallic shapes, not to be confused with the unfurling leaf. The fruit is more a curiosity for us than anything else. It takes a year to ripen, at which point the green scales that form the outer casing start to split and peel off, revealing the creamy centre. It is variously described as tasting like a pineapple, jackfruit, mango or banana – in other words, exotic-ish. Because we lack the heat for proper ripening, the natural oxalic acids remain high so the fruit is more akin to eating tropical textured and flavoured fine shards of glass.

Hailing from tropical rain forests of northern South America (Colombia to Mexico), the monstera is a member of the arum family, which is very apparent when you see the hooded creamy flowers. You are most likely to find small monstera plants in the house plant section or if you know of someone with one, a length of stem with some aerial roots will grow away.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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