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The Exotic Rainforest
Plants in the Exotic Rainforest Collection
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Monstera adansonii Schott
Often known when a juvenile as Monstera friedrichsthalii

Monstera adansonii, Photo Copyright 2010 Joep Moonen, French Guiana

Monstera adansonii Schott
The juvenile form is often known as Monstera friedrichsthalii

Synonyms: (same species, other name):
Dracontium pertusum L., Monstera ecuadorensis Engl. & K. Krause,
Monstera friedrichsthalii Schott, Monstera imrayana Schott
Monstera jacquini Schott, Monstera macrophylla Schott,
Monstera pertusa (L.) de Vriese, Tornelia laniata Schott

Monstera adansonii, the juvenile form is often called Monstera friedrichsthalii, Photo Copyright 2006, Steve Lucas, I've had a nice little Monstera in my collection for many years which I have known as Monstera friedrichsthalii.  Plant collecting friend Russ Hammer in Florida has a very large aroid collection and in the summer of 2006 sent a photo of a plant I would have sworn was Monstera friedrichsthalii.  The problem was that specimen was much larger than the 15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inch) size I had been led to believe was the maximum blade size for M. friedrichsthalii

The leaf blades of his plant ranged up to 67cm (26 inches).  When I went to TROPICOS (a service of the Missouri Botanical Garden) that scientific site indicated the name Monstera friedrichsthalii was a synonym for Monstera adansonii.  So, as I often do, I asked for a clarification from aroid botanist Dr. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Dr. Croat promptly came back with this quote:
"Monstera friedrichsthalii is a synonym of M. adansonii and the leaves can get up to about 65 cm long (26 inches) but I rarely see blades in the field which are more than 50 cm long."  A synonym is basically the same plant (see list above), simply another name. 

The plant I knew as M. friedrichsthalii is truly a juvenile form of Monstera adansoniiLike many others in my collection, Monstera friedrichsthalii was not precisely what I thought!  And according to aroid expert Dr. Croat it is capable of growing much larger than I previously assumed and most websites state! 

Monstera adansonii young adult, Photo Copyright Joep Moone, French GuianaThe genus Monstera is a relatively small group of 41 scientifically recognized Neotropical species found naturally only in Mexico, Central and South America.  There are Asian species with fenestrations (holes), but those are members of a separate genus known as Scindapsus.   As you can see from the list of synonym names above, Monstera adansonii has also been known by quite a few scientific names, and many of those names were given by one botanist.  That occurred due to the unique fact this species is extremely variable and morphs as it grows.   Very simply, it changes in appearance!  

This plant has confused botanists for close to 175 years!  But please understand, each name is still scientifically accurate.  But the accepted name is Monstera adansonii The species is known to be variable and not every leaf of every plant will look exactly alike!  This link will give you an easy to understand explanation of the natural variation within plant species:  Click here.

First described to science in 1830, Monstera adansonii, (which is a Philodendron relative, but not a Philodendron) is a good reason why I don't like common names for plants.  The common name for this plant is "Swiss Cheese plant".  Sound familiar?  Monstera deliciosa is also commonly called the Swiss Cheese plant.  And there is no telling how many other plants with fenestrations (holes in their leaves) have the same common name!  The scientific term "fenestration" comes from the Latin word for "window", thus "holes".  Monstera adansonii (ad-an-SON-e-eye) is the source for more than a little confusion amongst collectors. 

Monstera adansonii, the juvenile form is often called Monstera friedrichsthalii, Photo Copyright 2006, Steve Lucas, The species has 19 synonym names, that's 19 different scientific names for the same plant!  That happens because more than one (sometimes the same) botanist finds the plant in a different growth form or size and attempts to grant it a new name due to variation within the species!  Some sites indicate the name Monstera obliqua is also a synonym.  At one time I was led to believe that was also correct, but that information cannot be scientifically verified.  Dr. Croat commented in a personal email received in December, 2007, "II hope that this is not too discouraging but Monstera is a difficult genus and single species can sometimes be so variable as to appear like several species depending on how they are grown. Blade shape alone is useless.  I suspect that epidermal patterns, colors of dried stems and petioles are more valuable as characters.  I am not sure the spadices alone would help much but overall aspects of the inflorescences are useful."  In the same email he corrected the misinformation and confirmed Monstera obliqua is a completely different species.

Monstera adansonii is a native of the Amazonian region of Peru, Ecuador and Brazil.  When small it is often sold on eBay as a Philodendron, and it is certainly a relative, but this one is legitimately a MonsteraM. adansonii loves to run when small, and climb when larger.  The species prefers bright filtered sunlight.  Some growers insist it should be allowed to dry between watering, we have not found that to be necessary and water it right along with all our other Philodendron, Monstera and Anthurium sp. at normal rain forest rates which is basically wet, especially during the summer!  Since it is a resident of some of the wettest rain forest in South America it would not appear to need periods of dryness.

This note arrived from Dr. Croat on June 23, 2008 and was posted to the entire Aroid l group,
Monstera acuminata is a distinct Central American species and M. oblique is a distinct species ranging from Central America to South America  but M. friedrichsthalii is a synonym of M. adansonii. However, plants of mistaken determination labeled M. friedrichsthalii were actually M. siltepecana.  What was called Monstera pertusa for years is actually M. adansonii but if I am not mistaken the type of that plant is a Rhaphidophora from Asia. Monstera "pertusa" never had anything to do with M. deliciosa."

We have grown Monstera adansonii at more than 5 locations in the atrium plus.  As a result, most of the leaves of most of our plants have remained relatively small because they are running rather than climbing.   The blades of our largest specimen are well over 60cm (two feet), approaching 75cm (2.5 feet).

Monstera species are aroids and reproduce via the production of a spathe and spadix which is often called a "flower".  The true flowers are very small and are located along the spadix.   The spathe is not a flower but is instead a modified
Monstera adansonii, the juvenile form is often called Monstera friedrichsthalii, Photo Copyright 2006,Russ Hammerleaf whose purpose is to provide protection to the spadix at its center.

Monstera differ from Philodendron species since all Monstera produce perfect flowers containing both male and female organs while Philodendron produce imperfect flowers containing only a single sex.   When an Monstera is "in flower" the reference is to the tiny flowers containing both male and female sexual parts that grow on the spadix at the center of the inflorescence.  To help prevent self pollination nature has designed the female flowers to be receptive before the male portion of the flower produce their pollen so in most cases an insect must bring pollen from another plant.  For more information on the sexual reproduction of any aroid click the pollination link below.

The spadix attracts pollinating beetles when ready to reproduce at anthesis by producing a "perfume" known as a pheromone but is also thought by French pollination researcher Marc Gibernau to produce a visual attractant using infrared heat which the beetles can "see" with sensors that are likely on the end of their antennae.   Their eyes are apparently not sensitive to the "runway" glow emitted by an aroid in the dark of the forest but the antennae can "see" this visual attractant at 20 meters (65 feet) or more.  The spathe of Monstera adansonii can grow quite large (approximately 73cm or 9 inches) and is white in color while the spadix is pale green.  For additional information on aroid pollination click this link.

Monstera adansonii, Photo Copyright 2010 Joep Moonen, French GuianaOne internet discussion group seems to be quite disturbed with botanists who have "changed the name" of this species.  Perhaps a bit of explanation is deserved.  In 1830 botanist Schott went into the field and found a plant which he named Monstera adansonii.   And again in 1854 Schott went back into the field and found a plant he felt was different and named it Monstera friedrichsthalii.   Both turned out upon further scientific examination to be exactly the same plant!  So why the confusion?  Aroids often have different growth forms known as "variation". 

Think of it as different faces.  All humans are the same species, but we all have different body shapes and faces.  That is the problem with aroids.  They often look quite different, but once researched by a qualified scientist are found to be a single species.  The determining factor is the inflorescence.  In this case, all three of these "species" have the same inflorescence (spathe and spadix).  Therefore, they are the same species.  And the rules of botany give the prize to the oldest published name.  So the name has not been frivolously changed, it has simply been researched and determined the first name Schott gave is the winner of the prize.  That name becomes the basionym while the others become synonyms.  Again, please take the time to read the discussion on natural variation within aroid species.  You will be able to approach the subject with a much greater understanding of how names originate, sometimes must be replaced with the correct name as well as understanding how species are variable as well as morph:  Natural variation

We use extremely well drained soil with a lot of peat, Perlite, and orchid bark containing charcoal, gravel and bark mixed into the potting mixture to retain moisture.  On the advice of the research greenhouse keepers at the Missouri Botanical Garden we are also now adding small pieces of long strand sphagnum moss and additional horticultural charcoal along with cypress mulch.   In July 2006 Russ sent a cutting with three enormous leaves. 

Our large Monstera adansonii is hanging at the 12 foot level (four meters) potted in a hanging basket with a tall totem to climb.  The specimen has added numerous leaves as well as many long vines which look exactly like the plant we have previously known as Monstera friedrichsthalii. with the exception of the most juvenile leaves which are simply cordate (heart shaped).   As a result of the juvenile leaves collectors often believe their cutting is a Philodendron species which is incorrect.


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