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What's Blooming in Paradise: Swiss Cheese Plant

August 18, 2011
Anita Force Marshall , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

First impression: Dramatic, exotic, extra large dark green, elephant ear shaped leaves. These super sized leaves are split at the ends and have teardrop shaped holes all over. Ok, yes these aerated leaves remind me of Swiss cheese! The creamy white jack in the pulpit shaped flower is textured and hooded. The roots are long and like to adhere around the large mahogany tree it is climbing. No detectable fragrance, but my eye is drawn to its tropical island look. You can't miss these ginormous Swiss cheese like leaves and their pulpit like flowers climbing their way to the tippy top at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Monstera deliciosa is a show stopper, when blooming or non blooming there is no passing it by with out a closer look! It is a fast growing vine that can climb up a tree quickly. Native to Central America, it is perfect for our temperatures of dry climates and coastal areas. You may plant in filtered sun or shade close to any large canopied tree or pergola. Here in paradise it climbs high (up to 30 ft) into its host trees canopy attaching to the trunk and branches with its long semi-epiphytic roots. No worries- epiphytes do not harm their host plants, they use them for support and nutrient runoff. As its foliage grows up, the aerial roots grow downward out of a thick stem and take root where they touch the ground. It leaves are super large, shiny dark green and shaped like ruffled elephant ears. The name Swiss cheese plant is because the leaves have natural holes all through them. They are quite identifiable and dimensional. The spectacular flowers are upright and remind me of creamy white cattails. Each Spadix (flower) is hooded by a lovely creamy smooth spathe. The flower takes about one year to mature into a peculiar fruit (Ceriman) that looks a little like a slender green corn cob. An important warning: only ripe fruit can be consumed, unripe fruit and all other parts of this plant are poisonous. Central Americans and savvy gardeners have passed on a few secrets, but I would not try eating this fruit from your garden, unless advised and sanctioned by an expert. We don't harvest ours at the garden, but I have tasted them in Argentina and they were yummy. It reminds me of the texture of banana and taste of pineapple. You can imagine our star growing all over in the rainforest. Its fruit is well known and utilized by Central America daily. In days gone by they used the plants medicinal qualities for snakebites and arthritis. Today we enjoy them as super sized Swiss cheesed foliage that will surprise us with exotic, ethereal flowers.

Pros: Unique pulpit bloom Super sized leaves - Does well in sandy soil - Likes filtered sun or shade Propagates from cuttings - Salt tolerance May get the urge to yodel - Will add interest with large foliage Needs little attention - Drought tolerant Enjoy telling friends the plants name.

Article Photos

Cons: Can be aggressive grower Neighbors may be stealing cutting to start their own Warning; Don't eat unripe poisonous fruits - Non native Cold sensitive Neighbors might not enjoy your yodeling .

Conclusion: Yodel-layde-hoo ! You don't have to visit the Alps to get a look at our Swiss Cheese Plant. Even though there's no snow or mountains, it may inspire you to yodel-layde-hoo, in our tropical garden.

Don't wanna miss this bloomer!

 
 

 

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