When I was growing up in Southeast Queensland, the entrance to our front door was overgrown with Monstera Deliciosa plants. My teenage sisters and I were appalled because we thought it made our house look really ugly and dated – but little did we know that years later the Monstera would make a big come back as the design motif de jour shining out of instagram, gracing the pages of glossy magazines and finding itself front and centre at designer florists and botanical stores.
Native to Southern Mexico, Central America and Columbia, Monstera Deliciosa belongs to the genus Monstera, and is from the family of Arums. It is a climbing, flowering plant that grows in tropical rain forests or other humid shady areas. It is also known as the Swiss cheese plant, the fruit salad plant, monster fruit or Mexican breadfruit.
The leaves I am loving now. The fruit, which can grow up to 25cm in length and is corn shaped with a green hexagonal tiled covering, not so much. The Food Blog calls the fruit The Delicious Monster because it takes a year for the fruit to ripen, and “if eaten unripe, it will cause blistering, itching, swelling and pain, and possibly the loss of a loved one: you. This is due to the large amounts of oxalic acid in the unripe fruit.”
Apparently it’s safe to eat when the hexagonal scales fall off, and the fruit becomes easy to lift off the stem. Those who like to love dangerously say it’s similar in flavour and texture to a custard apple (why not just buy a custard apple I say – they’re not poisonous), but it also tastes like pineapples, bananas, grapes and strawberries.
Back to those designer leaves. As they age, the leaves become full of holes (ahhhh…The Swiss Cheese reference). Young leaves have no holes and are small and heart shaped. It’s believed leaves with the holes have cleverly adapted to resist damage from heavy rain and high winds and provide a way for light to reach down onto the floor of a rain forest.
No one quite knows why Monstera leaves are now a design thing. But no one doubts their distinctive large shape is naturally designed for visual impact.
The famous artsit Matisse featured the leaves in his works, and Christian Lacroix has a fabulous range of fabrics devoted to it. It’s appearing in wallpapers and soft furnishings and as an everlasting plant (thanks Ikea).
My Monstera wrap features a black and white line drawing of the leaf from a meditation colouring book which I suspect seems in strange contradiction to the colourful images of this post. I will return to the leaf with a coloured wrapping paper version at another time but for now I am enjoying the minimalist nature of the black and white with just a simple twine as embellishment because it makes it all about the shape of the leaf. It’s that simplicity that’s trending now.