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What is Monstera Deliciosa?

By Terrie Brockmann
Updated May 16, 2024
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Monstera deliciosa is a climbing vine plant native to Central America and southern Mexico that often grows to 70 feet (about 21 m) in the wild, and its leaves may measure 2 to 3 feet (about 60 to 90 cm) across, thereby earning the name monster. It is a member of the Araceae, or arum, family, and also known as ceriman, the Swiss cheese plant or cheese plant, the fruit salad plant, Mexican breadfruit, and the delicious monster. The name Swiss cheese plant refers to the holes in the thick, heart-shaped leaves, and fruit salad plant suggests the mixed pineapple and banana or mango flavors of the ripened fruit. Parts of the plant, including its unripened fruit, are toxic and may cause painful symptoms for humans and animals.

The plant's floral structure consists of a leaf-like white bract, or spathe, that envelopes a cone-like cluster of many tiny white flowers, or spadix, that may grow to more than 10 inches (25 cm) long. The spadix eventually develops into a cone-like fruit. Immature Monstera deliciosa fruit usually is toxic, but many people enjoy the mature fruit.

All parts except the fully ripened fruit of the Monstera deliciosa contain nonsoluble calcium oxalate, which is a chemical compound that forms needle-shaped crystals. Generally, when a person or animal chews on the leaves, the poisoning causes painful blistering, loss of voice, hoarseness, and irritation of the mouth and throat. The immature fruit, which contains oxalic acid, a toxin, takes about one year to ripen, when it becomes edible. The fruit usually is ready to eat when the kernels covering the edible flesh are easy to brush off; fruit with the kernels still firmly attached are toxic. Some individuals are allergic to the ripened fruit.

Although many parts of the plant are toxic, in various cultures people use the Monstera deliciosa for medicinal purposes. In Mexico, it is common for some natives to use a leaf or root infusion to relieve arthritis. Sometimes a root preparation is a snakebite remedy in Martinique. People often use the rhizomes for colds and rheumatism in other regions. Generally, people need to be careful when using these remedies because more than a few people are highly allergic to the plant.

Despite the plant's oversized nature, sometimes growers decorate large buildings, such as malls and hotels, with potted Monstera deliciosa. People often find the glossy, deeply indented leaves and hanging cordlike aerial roots to be attractive. Indoor potted plants rarely, if ever, bloom.

Cultivators propagate Monstera deliciosa with seeds, suckers that grow at the plant's base, or stem cuttings and air layering. In warmer climates, growers generally raise it outdoors, either in containers or in the ground. The plant might be a container plant in colder climates, although its size is a determining factor. M. oblique, or the Swiss cheese vine, is a close family member sometimes confused with the M. deliciosa. Both have deeply indented leaves accented with irregular holes.

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