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Monstera deliciosa Leibm. 1849
pronounced: mon-STER-uh de-liss-ee-OH-suh
(Araceae – the arum family)
common names: Fruit Salad Plant, Swiss Cheese Plant
Monstera is derived from the Latin monstrum, a monster, and deliciosa from deliciosus, delicious. The ‘delicious’ refers, of course, to the fruit, which I must confess I have not seen ripen in North Queensland, although the vine fruits freely in the south of the state. There is a magnificent specimen growing on the southern outside wall of the Brisbane City Hall, and I was first shown its fruit, and given a taste of it, by my father in 1942. The vine was still there when I last looked a few years ago.
The vine has a thick stem growing up to 20 m in height, and large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves 25–90 cm long by 25–75 cm broad. On young plants the leaves are smaller and have no holes or lobes, but older plants soon produce lobed and holed leaves. The inflorescence looks like a giant arum lily. It is a 20–30 cm long spathe and spadix; the spathe is creamy white or green.
The spadix takes a little over a year to mature. It swells into an aromatic fruit that looks a little like a green corn cob. It has a yellow-green, violet-spotted rind of hexagonal plates covering a creamy-white, soft pulp. The ripened fruit has a pineapple-banana smell and a fruit salad taste. When mature, the fruit has a yellow-green, violet spotted rind of hexagonal plates covering a creamy white, soft pulp. If left on the vine, the whole fruit does not generally ripen all at once, but can be eaten bit by bit as it ripens from the outside end. The fruit may be ripened by cutting it when the first scales begin to lift up and the fruit begins to exude its odour, then wrapping it in a paper bag and putting it aside until the kernels begin popping off. The kernels are then brushed off, revealing the edible flesh beneath. The flesh, which is something like that of the pineapple in texture, is then cut away from the core and eaten. Eating the immature fruit which has not ripened, and still has the kernels firmly attached, exposes the throat to the oxalic acid it contains, and is dangerous. It causes immediate and painful blistering and irritation, swelling, itching, and loss of voice. All parts of the plant are poisonous except the ripe fruits, and even these may be an irritant to particularly sensitive people.
In temperate climes, Monstera deliciosa is very commonly grown as a house plant. I have grown it with great success in England. It is usually given a moss stick on which to climb. In a well-heated house, even in winter, it can grow so huge that it needs to be pruned! It rarely flowers when grown indoors.
Monstera deliciosa is much planted by the Townsville Parks and Gardens department. I have noticed it particularly in the Palmer Street restaurant area, where, curiously enough, it usually seems to be planted where it has nothing on which to climb. The vine is easily propagated by cutting off a tip of stem just below an aerial root. This can be done at any time of the year.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2008-2013
Page last updated 31st December 2016