Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram

0
550
Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram


Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram | The Star

“,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”},{“text”:”They weren’t sure. De Los Reyes thought they should try. There weren’t exactly how-to guides, but they knew the plant sent out runners when it grew up trees and saplings in places like Costa Rica. As their monstera climbed the moss pole in its pot, it did the same, and de Los Reyes went to work, carefully cutting the runners to include the node. Obliquas are difficult to coax into existence, especially in a Toronto apartment. They’re not a slow-growing plant, but they’re slow to establish. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”The success rate is about 50 per cent, and it takes at least half a year to grow an obliqua hardy enough to survive shipping. That’s what people are paying for, says de Los Reyes, who goes to work on the plants every morning at 6: “the time it takes us to be able to produce it and take care of as many plants as we do.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Last spring, they launched their online shop. They had about 40 plants, most priced from $20 to $100, and they sold out within 30 minutes. (The online shop closes during the winter, because it is too cold to ship and they need time to replenish.)”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”They auctioned the rare stuff last summer. They didn’t want to set the price, and they knew there were doubters. “We didn’t want to be coming off as people who were trying to scam anybody or lie,” Fulton says. “We left it up to the people to decide” on the price.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“snippet”:”

“,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”},{“text”:”Drama emerged in the Instagram comments for the obliqua auction: a user wanted proof it was the real deal. A respected member of the rare plant world confirmed it. “what more do you need!” one user said. “Canadian plant nerds rejoice!” typed another.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Villocero of Vancouver snagged the obliqua for $2,400. (Later, he got a variegated Monstera adansonii for about $2,200.)”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”The obliqua arrived in the mail and he planted it in a biorb, a terrarium with controlled humidity. “She’s Here!” he posted on Instagram. People started to call him “plant royalty.” “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“I’m like, no I’m not,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just a normal person.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”On Facebook groups, photos of “Big leafy bois” and “Queens” draw adoration, emojis and envy. There is camaraderie, but there are haters, too, Villocero says. Prices are a constant topic. There are comparisons to tulip fever, orchid mania, the housing market. Some predict it will crash. Villocero says prices have only gone up since he’s been collecting. One Florida seller says the going rate for an obliqua at auction is $3,300 to $4,000.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”A lot of a plant’s value depends on scarcity; mass production is the greatest threat. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden says you can get “almost anything” cloned these days in tissue culture labs, but most of the really nice plants don’t grow fast enough for profit margins, he says. Some variegated plants don’t reproduce their strange colours in cloning.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×862″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453389003,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian De Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto are fully immersed in the plant world after their online business took off, including monstera sales.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/vrZiPgoMepiRlauppyGAFJUBDtU=/1200×862/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:862,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/4RrFuadv-g2K-Qrem4fl-AOiXmk=/1086×780/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:780,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/MHKAFdIILNEDgpPKCuhTLW4XJhU=/968×695/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:695,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_595_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:611,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/skeG5-YLCD0z6FIcNGowaaKJTSQ=/650×467/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:467,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/khNYnEk39BxX4vpSO-qJMSA-PVo=/605×435/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:435,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/51E6Fe_fxvXL4ZsSdhNQJc-4L7s=/480×345/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:345,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PYihA7nb5TIJNJjjoN0vlMJ_JxY=/400×287/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:287,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/45qZ66ZiupKhdRt7rwiYHdlGWio=/320×230/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:230,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EEYxLiYCaO7UJctp_ex52XrfI98=/93×67/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:67,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“text”:”De Los Reyes and Fulton know there is instability in the market. They contacted tissue culture experts to see if Monstera obliqua could be cloned in a lab. They were told research to determine its viability would cost a few thousand dollars, and there was no guarantee it would work. They didn’t proceed, but they realize somebody else might. Scott Hyndman, a longtime member of the International Aroid Society and researcher in tissue culture, says labs in Thailand lead the way. Perhaps the “crazy auction prices” might drive “a perceived demand” that would encourage a lab to try, he wrote in an email.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”The guys at the House of Monstera aren’t betting on one plant. They’ve spent the winter caring for hundreds of aroids, including a monstera with mottled green and white variegation that produces a “minty” look, and a monstera from Brazil that they expect will fetch a high price at auction, once the weather is warm enough to ship. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”At Crystal Star nurseries, they do not propagate. Instead, they import the rare stuff and give the plants TLC for several months so they’re in good shape.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Because people will “flip” the plants for higher prices, they limit the purchase of certain items to one or two per person. They stay on top of trends.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“The worst nightmare for a grower is you grow something and it ends up nobody wants it.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“duration”:”84″,”fullWindowYoutube”:false,”uploadDate”:”2020-02-11T19:03:31″,”thumbnailSize”:”640×480″,”youtubeTags”:”Toronto Star,Toronto,Star”,”registeredOnly”:false,”description”:””,”youtubeid”:”Q7JlPJTYB88″,”type”:”youtube”,”title”:”What is a monstera plant?”,”thumbnailUrl”:”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Q7JlPJTYB88/sddefault.jpg”,”channelTitle”:”Toronto Star”},{“text”:”


“,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:false},{“text”:”Long before monstera was described with heart eye emojis, a French botanist described it as a pleasant green plant with “remarkable” piercings, climbing up trees in Martinique. He called it by another name in the 17th century, but a later scholar recognized Monstera adansonii in his description. By the mid-19th century, botanists had brought Monstera deliciosa cuttings back to Europe in “horticultural triumph.” It became a staple of the botanical garden.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Monsteras like warmth and humidity and a tree to grow on. They are native to Central and South America, and part of the aroid family. The distinguishing mark of an aroid is a spathe and spadix that creates a somewhat bizarre, waxy-looking flower, like the peace lily or red anthurium. Aroids are known for dramatic foliage, and they are generally weird-looking — one of the reasons people love them as house plants, says Albert Huntington, past president of the International Aroid Society.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“type”:”articleRelatedInlineSecondary”},{“text”:”The monstera has been somewhat overlooked for most of the society’s four decades of existence. A decade ago, the obliqua — which now fetches thousands — sold for $10. A few people were growing it, but nobody had much interest, Huntington says. It was just another vine.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“type”:”cta”,”buttonText”:”Sign Up Now”,”buttonLink”:”/emails.html?utm_source=thestar&utm_medium=inline&utm_campaign=auto&utm_content=torontoheadlines”,”description”:”Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines email newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.”,”title”:”Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox”},{“text”:”Plants on the rise always have a good story, he says. A good story makes people want to grow them, and if they’re not widely available, they become an object of desire.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“Have you talked to Mick?” he asks.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×675″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453389236,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Mick Mittermeier and Marco Cedeno-Fonseca on a recent trip to a secret location in southwest Costa Rica with a newly described species of semi-terrestrial monstera. Fonseca is working on a revision of the species.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Mick Mittermeier”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/v78J54F-scIt-vK8eM-FluZfnmY=/1200×675/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:675,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/4j_5LDeA5Odr9IHvTAdUBdQqYxs=/1086×611/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:611,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_508_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:545,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/q4pBWykHuEugWssRsdNV0nUaIag=/850×478/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:478,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/G_pNSjs8LzSevDzrNloXtwBXRR8=/650×366/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:366,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/OKq9xFttlV1OFR3rt2lQCfc0_1Q=/605×340/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:340,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/cnEb6iK_ZbdC3pKLja4tCGJsu74=/480×270/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:270,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/GZ0hk4whYzW7QJPhg1NjVKFxk0c=/400×225/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:225,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/n3s07viLRU7bnKU65XXH3CVY-tc=/320×180/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:180,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EwL-llY_0K_AbwMvSgNeo7BtgIY=/93×52/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:52,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“text”:”Mick Mittermeier, 27, is a plant collector and monstera lover who lives in Miami. He studied anthropology, not botany, but when it comes to his knowledge of rare plants he’s considered an expert by many. (He was the one who weighed in on the House of Monstera auction, and he’s known by botanists and collectors alike for his enthusiastic sleuthing around plants.)”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”A few years ago, he noticed people were posting photos of Monstera adansonii on social media, but calling them “Monstera obliqua.” Both plants had holes in their leaves, but the obliqua was smaller, rare, and incredibly complex.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Annoyed by the misinformation, he posted a photo of an obliqua on Instagram.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“This is easily the most misidentified plant I see on social media. This is TRUE Monstera obliqua. There is only one collector I’ve met that has it and everything else you see on #Instagram is more likely than not M. adansonii … If you think you have it, you probably don’t. This has been a public service announcement.” “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Some people asked him for proof, so Mittermeier visited botanical gardens around the U.S. He talked to botanists. He tracked down a 1977 academic paper that described 22 species of monstera found in Central and South America. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Mittermeier posted illustrations from the paper on Instagram. (“Would make cool wall art,” one person commented.)”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”The hashtag #itsneverobliqua became an in-joke, and later, a T-shirt. Baby Monstera obliquas entered the market in Florida, and the circle of ownership widened. Mittermeier, who was given a piece of an obliqua runner from a friend, grew it into his own plant and sold a couple of the offspring for about $400 each in 2018. By 2019, it was selling for upwards of $2,000 at auction, depending on the size.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Monica Carlsen, the education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Garden, thinks the attention is a good thing. While cute animals have helped drive funding for zoological research, botany has never had a charismatic plant equivalent.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“I know that Mick is trying to push monstera as our panda,” she says. She thinks it’s a good idea. Monstera is accessible. While some types are out of reach to most, you can pick up others at Home Depot.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×856″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453393033,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:” The most current revision of the Monstera genus was done by Mike Madison in the 1970s. Madison studied botany at Harvard. He was in Mexico for field work and came across a monstera growing on the trunk of tree. It was a “splendid, outrageous” plant, but when he tried to learn more, he discovered the taxonomy of the genus was “a complete mess,” and most of the species had been described by people who had never seen them growing. For his PhD project, he took on a revision – kind of a “state of the union” for a plant genus. He spent a couple of years travelling in South and Central America collecting plants. Here he is in 1978 in Brazil with a philodendron. When he left the world of tropical botany, it was considered a great loss for the field. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Courtesy Mike Madison”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/DvKwuTgdEilqOWI0QGUBxPOsM0Y=/1200×856/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:856,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/ghOe5UpJJYQasleu1r8TjwG4Qb8=/1086×775/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:775,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_72_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:691,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/tq1lJiZdrFAvFArzUHUbW9c-1oI=/850×606/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:606,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/0IB6iexV1ACYgUhbuwWBB1CG1EE=/650×464/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:464,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/oBj3naPYKJeieBLkPTlGtECEd44=/605×432/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:432,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/b1I85bp_sAsGi8flZmBHUsND00s=/480×342/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:342,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/lCLIC7MLnTbQw29etlaOFACc_Wg=/400×285/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:285,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FYm6UxQ9iZF3muFd0tU3PTWBg4o=/320×228/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:228,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/eAfshfRwg1XaNsXgEgPIdCSpfqo=/93×66/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:66,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“text”:”As interest has grown, information about the plant has been limited, Mittermeier says. The seminal academic work continued to be the 1977 paper. The author of the paper, Mike Madison, had no online presence. One article noted that Madison had retired after a short career, a “severe blow” to aroid research. It seemed that just like the Thai Constellation at Allan Gardens, the young botanist had vanished.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”


“,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:false},{“text”:”In 1970, Madison was in a Mexican forest in a somewhat perplexed state. He was a graduate student then, studying ferns, but a splendid and outrageous monstera caught his eye, growing on a tree trunk. Back at Harvard, he tried to identify the species, but the taxonomy was a mess. Many of the plants had been described by people who had never seen them in the wild.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Someone needed to sort it out, so when it came time for a PhD project, he decided he would write a revision, which is a state of the union for a plant genus. He drove his truck from California until he hit the end of the road in Panama. He put the truck on a boat and kept driving into South America exploring the forests on foot, machete in hand, as he collected and described “some of the most magnificent and conspicuous climbers of the neotropics.” “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Most monsteras have holes in the leaves, a source of beauty and mystery. Were they a sign of weakness? A way to conserve energy? An evolutionary hack to allow water to drip through to the roots? Nobody knew. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”He compared his findings with the existing knowledge and came up with a list of 22 species and three varieties.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”A handful of botanists were working in the tropics in the 1970s. There was little bureaucracy, and great urgency. It wasn’t uncommon to work in a dense primary forest only to return the following year to find a banana farm in its place. “We all recognized that the forest was being cut at a very fast rate,” Madison says. It felt like it might be the last chance to see certain species, keep them alive through collection efforts, or at the very least, make a record of what used to exist.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”When Madison published his revision, it didn’t generate any buzz. Monstera was an “obscure genera that nobody much cared about,” he says.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”He worked on other plants, but it felt like an existential vacuum. He left botany in 1981. He got married and found domestic life “a lot more appealing than sleeping on the ground in the jungle.” He worked in construction and edited medical books so he could get a farm going in the Sacramento Valley, which is what he does today. Every day, he scours Craigslist for old tractors, and wouldn’t you know it, he sees a lot of monstera plants there. He can’t believe the prices. Suddenly, the world cares about his old friends.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“type”:”relatedLinks”,”relatedLinks”:[“

What you need to know before you import or export rare plants in Canada

“]},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”805×1200″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453943164,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Monica Carlsen, the assistant scientist and education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, says botany is in need of a “panda.” Maybe they have it in monstera. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Missouri Botanical Garden”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”crop”:”0,221,805,908″,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PZRLAcCbGRuAqW-_R-MlxjG7xBU=/0x221:805×908/1086×927/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:927,”scalefactor”:135},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_846_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:826,”scalefactor”:120},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/OPo8rGbsXP2C0ASP890UbgT1-3A=/0x221:805×908/850×725/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:725,”scalefactor”:106},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/AIhs1bxWgs_LC5cG-XLGzRA-H7w=/0x221:805×908/805×687/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:805,”height”:687,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/j6irZT46DsH_eglEievfq7Hut8o=/0x221:805×908/650×555/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:555,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Xwe8VrQAYxaKmtujS4Mqta6mF6A=/0x221:805×908/605×516/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:516,”scalefactor”:75},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/K7zLJRfYaDxWu3RYRfr8vf_eak4=/0x221:805×908/480×410/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:410,”scalefactor”:60},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/sBfkcsc1c7ZXCjmPHG6KTzmeiRo=/0x221:805×908/400×341/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:341,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/GdGfSp-r0lVlyBUbPrgsKA4-RNE=/0x221:805×908/320×273/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:273,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/5NuJlWelx3dGc-fIZ1RDLL6XOp4=/0x221:805×908/93×79/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:79,”scalefactor”:12}]},{“text”:”


“,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:false},{“text”:”More than four decades after Madison described the species, an update is in the works. For botanists, it’s akin to a book release.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“Everybody is expecting the sequel of the Lord of Rings,” says Monica Carlsen. Will there be new characters? Will every species survive?”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Legendary botanist Tom Croat — who has worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years — teamed up with the “remarkable” Marco Cedeno-Fonseca for the revision. Cedeno-Fonseca worked on a taxonomic review of monstera for his master’s degree at the University of Costa Rica, and his work became part of Croat’s larger undertaking to classify and update 25 genera of aroids from Panama to southern Mexico. The work is not yet published, but they expect around 60 species of monstera in their revision, which is a big jump from Madison’s 22.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Many of these countries are more accessible, but Madison says the number of species depends on the botanist. He was more impressed by similarities, which meant fewer species in total. (While Madison noted one species of obliqua in 1977, Croat says it was “overclumped” and will likely be divided into several species in their upcoming revision.)”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”In the 1970s, you could easily ship live plants home. That’s how so many tropical plants ended up in botanical gardens, and later spread to private collectors. (Mittermeier traces the obliqua currently in circulation to a 1975 collection in Peru.) Regulations tightened in the 1990s as governments faced pressure to conserve their forests, but as Croat notes, deforestation continues.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”798×1200″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453580459,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Tom Croat has been with the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years. “It’s easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms,” he laments,”than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you’re cutting down.””,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Missouri Botanical Garden”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”crop”:”0,135,798,687″,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/2eotUG3SZUrNCCJdo6SvbTEdFxQ=/0x135:798×687/1086×751/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:751,”scalefactor”:136},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/aLY4tF0LvYGoq4YYKxAWdKa0ZnE=/0x135:798×687/968×670/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:670,”scalefactor”:121},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531002_641_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:588,”scalefactor”:107},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/qNMoLZev3QBhqIy-IZTnlYCTB-U=/0x135:798×687/798×552/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:798,”height”:552,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Em7kTc7CeV05bOgAaqckPcno_DA=/0x135:798×687/650×450/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:450,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/uY4C5JGkXkNundJ6jtZpt-8PPFU=/0x135:798×687/605×418/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:418,”scalefactor”:76},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Dyko1Ht14Dmm5SjgrWz-Vg0JYNg=/0x135:798×687/480×332/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:332,”scalefactor”:60},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/fZTXS-DzU5untSUIGzvkAJM08EQ=/0x135:798×687/400×277/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:277,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/DTNAtCwS5MV4v6Xikwq7nZ7E6os=/0x135:798×687/320×221/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:221,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/khVJudRDwI1uBKY6INubHLxETpQ=/0x135:798×687/93×64/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:64,”scalefactor”:12}]},{“text”:”“It’s easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms,” he laments,“than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you’re cutting down.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Croat is 82. His greatest fear is that plants will go extinct before anybody sees them, and he worries that modern botany is more concerned with molecular biology than field work. “There is a century of work that still needs to be done.” “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”There are more Latin American botanists doing field work, but funding and publishing remain big challenges.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Mick Mittermeier helped raise money for Cedeno-Fonseca’s field work and joined him in Costa Rica a few months ago. Speaking together on the phone, they described how some plants were easy to locate, while others required a seven-day trek through the mountains, seven nights in hammocks, and a knack for climbing trees. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”They spotted one new species of monstera at the bottom of a slick, muddy hillside that was covered in a “nasty, spiky vine.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“By the time we came back up, all our clothes were ripped up and we were bleeding,” says Mittermeier. “Nothing more fun.””,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×867″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453393945,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Monstera deliciosa borsigiana albo variegated ranges between $300 and 500. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EeNkC6VvrxpHzIn0coV6cT5ZC2g=/1200×867/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:867,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/xkjkRzCp0j-5naGgQm4ISHITNfg=/1086×785/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:785,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531002_43_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:699,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/sv1pyM-_JlVafUw7PWF3UT0pQ1E=/850×614/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:614,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/q2xh9a_U3ZEXZe8hPMC25Wh6EZE=/650×470/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:470,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/xNorpwushg2c3Rw-5iFLN2X_Fac=/605×437/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:437,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/cg9u4ilVDmdO7YxLwJAIG3Qsq3Q=/480×347/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:347,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/V9Nqm27dZrzSzApXT3UB_q1ohNw=/400×289/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:289,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/dAJxSR_NxNOw-eOJmtU2AYeRvG4=/320×231/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:231,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/32X-sl34xTaIt9f8IW5ZlxjUsIE=/93×67/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:67,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“text”:”


“,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:false},{“text”:”When Mittermeier first visited plant collectors in Florida, many were delighted by his enthusiasm and generous with their time. They invited him into their homes, and even sent him away with cuttings. But collectors are less trusting these days.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“There is such a concern that when the collectors travel, people are just going to come back in the night and steal everything,” he says.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”He rarely lets people visit, except friends. He says people are brazen when they visit botanical gardens, armed with knives, clippers and little consideration for the plant or the people who want to see it. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”“Like all botanical gardens, we are aware of the problem of plants being stolen from our collections and we are taking measures to prevent it,” a spokesperson from the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida wrote in an email.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Allan Gardens is far removed from swashbuckling botanists in the neotropics, but the rising popularity of rare aroids has brought intrigue to Jarvis Street. You can still find plenty of Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii there, but none of the unicorns — at least not at the moment.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Supervisor Curtis Evoy concedes that the downtown oasis may not be the best setting for those plants. Some renovation work is coming up, and if they tried again after that, they’d have to be strategic. Many of their small and special orchids are behind glass for security reasons.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”At the Gardens, life moves on. Joe Gaudaur planted a donated mango tree where the Thai Constellation used to be. “,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“type”:”textBreakPoint”,”insertAt”:”contentEndBreakPoint”},{“text”:”It’s still standing.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true},{“text”:”Katie Daubs is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @kdaubs“,”author”:{“janrainUuid”:”5cc9cfbf-6ca2-4c7f-9e43-f5ec141c2f02″,”author”:”Katie Daubs”,”photo”:{“origImageSize”:”4780×3187″,”lastmodified”:2700061000,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”sizes”:{“small”:”https://images.thestar.com/B5OePqZcVMlLIjcq_j-Aj4W89Zs=/114×76/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”large”:”https://images.thestar.com/dMjWTU-naTH4zQ_vYgMZ1_D-A5k=/328×220/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”square”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/The-High-Park-capybaras-enthralled-the-city-after-their-famous-escape.-Now-they’ve-embraced-the-quiet-life.JPG”,”hero”:”https://images.thestar.com/TdAApz7sgIU9zqfOnBXy1vPznaU=/678×432/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”}},”location”:”Toronto”,”tag”:”daubs_katie”,”credit”:”Feature Writer”,”twitterId”:”kdaubs”,”email”:”kdaubs@thestar.ca”},”authorPageUrl”:”/authors.daubs_katie.html”,”type”:”endnote”,”isLast”:true},{“type”:”related_topics”,”tags”:[“vancouver”]},{“type”:”shareBar”},{“type”:”trustbar”},{“type”:”conversations”}],”assetTags”:[“monstera_obliqua”,”smg_gta”,”monstera”,”houseplant”,”allan_gardens”,”daubs_katie”,”monstera”,”smg2_news”,”joe_gaudaur”,”plants”,”topstory”,”araceae”,”algolock”,”convos”,”plants”,”philodendron”,”collectors”,”botany”,”vancouver”,”allan_gardens”,”curtis_evoy”,”epiphytes”],”seoKeywords”:”monstera,Monstera obliqua,Allan Gardens,plants,collectors,Botany,Vancouver,topstory,smg_gta,smg2_news,algolock,convos”,”excludeInRecommendations”:false,”promo”:[{“snippet”:””,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”}],”related”:{“pubdays”:0,”strategy”:0},”seoHead”:”Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram”,”headline”:”Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram”,”subheadline”:”The internet — and millennials — are in love with rare tropical plants, such as the monstera. As prices keep going up, one Toronto couple with a green thumb is helping to feed the frenzy.”,”canonicalUrl”:”https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram.html”,”seoDescription”:”The internet — and millennials — are in love with rare tropical plants, such as the monstera. As prices keep going up, one Toronto couple with a green thumb is helping to feed the frenzy.”,”enableConversations”:true,”enableConversationsPoseQuestion”:true,”publishedepoch”:1581501600000,”lastmodifiedepoch”:1581517142578,”abstractVisible”:false,”poseQuestion”:”How much would you pay for a plant? Share your thoughts”,”paywallMode”:”locked”,”storyuuid”:”dec2232f-b23e-450a-a9f9-a8d108d55e00″,”republish”:true,”slideshowid”:”B881006399Z.1″,”lastmodified”:”02 12 2020″,”lastreplicated”:”9:19 AM, Wed., Feb. 12, 2020″,”readtime”:17,”breadcrumbs”:[{“label”:”News”,”relurl”:”/news”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news.html”},{“label”:”GTA”,”relurl”:”/news/gta”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news/gta.html”}],”authors”:[{“janrainUuid”:”5cc9cfbf-6ca2-4c7f-9e43-f5ec141c2f02″,”author”:”Katie Daubs”,”photo”:{“origImageSize”:”4780×3187″,”lastmodified”:2700061000,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”sizes”:{“small”:”https://images.thestar.com/B5OePqZcVMlLIjcq_j-Aj4W89Zs=/114×76/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”large”:”https://images.thestar.com/dMjWTU-naTH4zQ_vYgMZ1_D-A5k=/328×220/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”,”square”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/The-High-Park-capybaras-enthralled-the-city-after-their-famous-escape.-Now-they’ve-embraced-the-quiet-life.JPG”,”hero”:”https://images.thestar.com/TdAApz7sgIU9zqfOnBXy1vPznaU=/678×432/smart/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG”}},”location”:”Toronto”,”tag”:”daubs_katie”,”credit”:”Feature Writer”,”twitterId”:”kdaubs”,”email”:”kdaubs@thestar.ca”}],”numOfParagraphs”:85,”liftigImage”:{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”fullWindowMainart”:false,”type”:”image”,”imageid”:”GAUS8L9D.2″,”origImageSize”:”1200×769″,”cropthumb”:”0,94,1200,769″,”lastmodified”:1581524524710,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian de Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto started the House of Monstera Instagram account in 2018, and have propagated some rare aroid plants.”,”source”:”Toronto Star”,”credit”:”Steve Russell”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”mainartSize”:”medium”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/O2gxQR6N9S5k1zp4aa2jWvFWINs=/0x94:1200×769/93×52/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:52,”scalefactor”:8,”aspect”:”wide”}]},”seopublisheddate”:”2020-02-12″,”seomodifieddate”:”2020-02-12″,”primarylabel”:{“label”:”GTA”,”relurl”:”/news/gta”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news/gta.html”},”totalParas”:0,”additionalEvents”:”,event29″,”legacyArticleData”:{“mainart”:{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”fullWindowMainart”:false,”type”:”image”,”imageid”:”GAUS8L9D.2″,”origImageSize”:”1200×769″,”cropthumb”:”0,94,1200,769″,”lastmodified”:1581524524710,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian de Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto started the House of Monstera Instagram account in 2018, and have propagated some rare aroid plants.”,”source”:”Toronto Star”,”credit”:”Steve Russell”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/18p7oVeenBvch5B0AfsoMIXxuDA=/1200×769/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:769,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:696,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/gv2ioM2IskjKEE2xQ7yIgI9LU-4=/968×620/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:620,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Z0ksF3bwnH40BBj9a_EcKnvQkRc=/850×545/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:545,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/ilAVIZ04OZkv77Mm0yIn1HxWMKM=/650×417/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:417,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FmIc5WapvJZd3-k8yN3Wg5HirpY=/605×388/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:388,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/9jSR9ZqCXOjXPlBP25bM_HU_n24=/480×308/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:308,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/JUmFTXi0HYYp44TQNbOQzqc-M70=/400×256/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:256,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/QhZWo_OPF9cmlGQ5ZK-YIouHwzo=/320×205/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:205,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FYT8_q7Iz9NU2hzLzoJu2uFgTqg=/93×60/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:60,”scalefactor”:8}],”isLandscape”:true,”skip”:true},”sourceCategory”:”in-house”,”keywords”:[“oc:entities/City/t/o/r/toronto”,”oc:entities/Person/a/l/l/allan_gardens”,”oc:entities/Person/j/o/e/joe_gaudaur”,”oc:entities/Person/c/u/r/curtis_evoy”,”oc:socialtag/a/r/a/araceae”,”oc:socialtag/m/o/n/monstera”,”oc:socialtag/h/o/u/houseplant”,”oc:socialtag/p/h/i/philodendron”,”oc:socialtag/e/p/i/epiphytes”,”oc:socialtag/p/l/a/plants”,”ng:m/o/n/monstera”,”ng:m/o/n/monstera_obliqua”,”ng:a/l/l/allan_gardens”,”ng:p/l/a/plants”,”ng:c/o/l/collectors”,”ng:b/o/t/botany”,”ng:v/a/n/vancouver”,”ng:t/o/p/topstory”,”ng:s/m/g/smg_gta”,”ng:s/m/g/smg2_news”,”ng:a/l/g/algolock”,”ng:c/o/n/convos”],”inbrief”:[],”TorstarTags”:[“103″,”7″],”publisheddate”:”Wed., Feb. 12, 2020″,”lastreplicatedepoch”:1581517152691,”type”:”Story”,”body”:[{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

The plant thief didn’t need a shovel.

The variegated monstera was a fresh transplant inside the tropical landscape house of Allan Gardens, and its heart-shaped leaves had pleasing flecks of white and yellow.

“},{“type”:”mainart”,”data”:{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”fullWindowMainart”:false,”type”:”image”,”imageid”:”GAUS8L9D.2″,”origImageSize”:”1200×769″,”cropthumb”:”0,94,1200,769″,”lastmodified”:1581524524710,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian de Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto started the House of Monstera Instagram account in 2018, and have propagated some rare aroid plants.”,”source”:”Toronto Star”,”credit”:”Steve Russell”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/18p7oVeenBvch5B0AfsoMIXxuDA=/1200×769/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:769,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:696,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/gv2ioM2IskjKEE2xQ7yIgI9LU-4=/968×620/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:620,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Z0ksF3bwnH40BBj9a_EcKnvQkRc=/850×545/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:545,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/ilAVIZ04OZkv77Mm0yIn1HxWMKM=/650×417/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:417,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FmIc5WapvJZd3-k8yN3Wg5HirpY=/605×388/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:388,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/9jSR9ZqCXOjXPlBP25bM_HU_n24=/480×308/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:308,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/JUmFTXi0HYYp44TQNbOQzqc-M70=/400×256/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:256,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/QhZWo_OPF9cmlGQ5ZK-YIouHwzo=/320×205/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:205,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FYT8_q7Iz9NU2hzLzoJu2uFgTqg=/93×60/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:60,”scalefactor”:8}],”isLandscape”:true}},{“type”:”ads_below”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

That section of the conservatory is a jumble of exuberant tropical plants that gardener Joe Gaudaur oversees. He planted the monstera there in July 2018, tucked away from the pathway. Staff are mindful of where certain things grow. Fruit trees, for instance, are often out of reach, because they know it’s hard to resist the allure of lemons in downtown Toronto. Gaudaur knew the monstera was something of a celebrity, part of a genus that had shot to orchid-level fame.

When he walked by a couple of days later to see if it needed water, he saw an empty space. The root system didn’t have a chance to entrench, so he imagined it slipped easily from the soil, like a baby tooth hanging by a thread.

Monstera plants have hole-filled leaves, which evoke an arresting, architectural beauty. There are many species and not all are coveted. The most widely cultivated is the “swiss cheese” Monstera deliciosa, a hardy climber with gigantic split leaves that you can find for $20 to $100 at local plant shops or Kijiji. Allan Gardens has deliciosas in its central palm house, as well as Monstera adansonii, another common species. Widely available, they have been left to grow big and strong, as all plants should.

“},{“type”:”ad”,”display”:”small-only”,”pos”:”1″,”sizes”:[[300,250]],”interstitial”:true,”name”:”MobileMiddleArticleBigBox”},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×1157″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453394501,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:” Monstera adansonii variegated. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/uial67t2YMnw_C4-WG4rV8-Psa8=/1200×1157/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:1157,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/f1VL5Xz3_5yxBN6C-0y2Gkt8SBo=/1086×1047/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:1047,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PyyOl_7_ss5nh6OTxZh0yDzSMGg=/968×933/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:933,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_261_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:820,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/NAPJsImj1WflBElzGFNqocFtOVM=/650×627/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:627,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/vZJxnTekLGI-L8k73RdLLBTR7Uc=/605×583/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:583,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/yY4kV27uKA3UA70lT36GOMrOpw0=/480×463/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:463,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PO-nyuJ44hEoPc84IbYNSGxlv_g=/400×386/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:386,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/BEPvfPm7s3bIKtubg17VO_JNHKI=/320×309/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:309,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PqvyFjr1ZvtCkK1UGamD5Ep0V-4=/93×90/smart/filters:cb(1581453394501)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/sr_monstera_29.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:90,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

Allan Gardens doesn’t have any of the rare monsteras, which can cost upwards of $2,000. Their variegated monstera was a cultivar called the Thai Constellation, loved by many for a genetic mutation that gives the leaves dashes of white for a marbled look. The plant was entry-level but still rare enough that plant influencers unbox them on YouTube, racking up thousands of views and dozens of comments: “Congratulations on your new beautiful baby.” “I’m so jealous.”

Eric Lee has seen this kind of mania before. He and his wife own Crystal Star Nurseries in East Gwillimbury, and they’ve been working with rare plants and orchids for 30 years. People loved bonsai after “The Karate Kid.” Orchids came on strong in the 1990s. More recently, people took to cacti and succulents. Now, he says, it’s hoya and aroids, the latter of which is the plant family the monstera belongs to. Two-thirds of the buyers are under 35.

He imports many of his rare plants from Asia, including the Thai Constellation that Allan Gardens bought for $70 about two years ago. (There is such a global demand for the plant that prices overseas keep going up. It now sells for about $100 to $150 depending on size and quality.)

“},{“type”:”articleRelatedInlinePrimary”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

When Gaudaur planted it in July 2018, it was an unassuming little plant. The true beauty would come in a few months, when preprogrammed cell death created holes or “fenestrations” in the leaves. The holes would grow bigger, eventually splitting the edges of the leaves. He believes the monstera was targeted, because you had to know where to look, and you had to know what it would become. Maybe somebody overheard him talking about it to an enthusiastic visitor. Maybe the visitor’s enthusiasm was hiding sinister intentions.

“},{“type”:”articleRelated”,”display”:”medium-up”},{“type”:”slimcut”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

It wasn’t the first time a plant disappeared. Allan Gardens stresses that it is not a “free-for-all” at the downtown greenhouse. But there are occasional guests who bring scissors.

Gaudaur once stood up from a soil bed to find a woman hacking at a hibiscus branch with kitchen shears. She believed it her right since the garden was public, and he explained that the public could not visit the hibiscus plant inside her home. Another staff member walked into the succulent house to find a man trying to break off a chunk of a blue cactus. A few years ago, they had another variegated monstera in their central palm house. It was a fairly good size, until the unauthorized cutting began. Pieces went missing, bit by bit, when nobody was looking. It vanished into nothingness.

“We’ve tried to replace it a few times,” says Curtis Evoy, the city’s supervisor of conservatories and horticultural display. “The plant just kind of disappears.”

“},{“type”:”ad”,”display”:”small-only”,”pos”:”2″,”sizes”:[[300,250]],”interstitial”:true,”name”:”MobileMiddleBottomArticleBigBox”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”


“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”900×1200″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453389108,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:” Jonathan Villocero of Vancouver poses with a few of his monstera plants. He started collecting rare plants a year ago, and is now propagating some of his plants to help fund his hobby.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Supplied”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/526HiOCUueRdrM1p378sberMr3I=/1086×1448/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:1448,”scalefactor”:121},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/V8QQ8rSdgx2pEyiknYNkhKqCK8I=/968×1291/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:1291,”scalefactor”:108},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/HUBowXVLToPr_j6zgWSWwCbhRCg=/900×1200/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:900,”height”:1200,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Ibt5fTStfTY-b4Z54pddbQcvyHg=/850×1133/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:1133,”scalefactor”:94},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/LoxR2r86VvE1pRgWIyTArcFlFh0=/650×867/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:867,”scalefactor”:72},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_482_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:807,”scalefactor”:67},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/NEhSxgOGlNiXyB_NJKrfFGsRBE0=/480×640/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:640,”scalefactor”:53},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/xu3gLd8CdGKRIboIf69erKkvwdQ=/400×533/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:533,”scalefactor”:44},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/UiKXxoqj7SlVsClxAF09d46vA4g=/320×427/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:427,”scalefactor”:36},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/AR5yfDwgSKqY4x7wsOTDi-kqFlc=/93×124/smart/filters:cb(1581453389108)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/jonathan_and_monstera.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:124,”scalefactor”:10}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

Jonathan Villocero lives in Vancouver, where his main business is gourmet salts. He has a vintage shop, runs craft fairs, maintains beehives in his backyard, hand-spins his own yarn, and shows Portuguese Water Dogs, among other creative hobbies. He has spent his life searching for the “next best thing.” About a year ago, rare plants took over.

Villocero fell into the quicksand of beguiling leaves with Latin names after watching a YouTube video. He loves the thrill of the hunt, and soon he was on a quest for his “holy trinity” of super-rare plants, which included two monsteras and an obscure pendant-leafed philodendron. The going rate at auctions for each of these plants was thousands of dollars.

“Some of my friends they look at me like I’m a nut,” he says. But when he explains that he can make his investment back when he propagates them, they understand. He acknowledges he’s fortunate. At 52, he’s older than the mostly millennial crowd that chases rare plants, and he has a business and investments that can support the hobby. Before he jumped in, he did his research, made connections, but he couldn’t land the plants. That made them more appealing.

“Oh my God, you’re into another hobby now and this is the most expensive one,” he remembers his partner saying.

(Actually, show dogs are more expensive, he says.)

Last summer, he found a lead. Two guys in Toronto had started a business called the House of Monstera. “I hounded them,” he says, laughing about his weekly emails. He was in luck. That July, they were auctioning off a baby Monstera obliqua.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×778″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453388707,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Monstera obliqua.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Cd6BDlUtJzsKvDQ-vo2MAI6UR3o=/1200×778/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:778,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/D244YNTqae0O4IwL2OS8vseCxtc=/1086×704/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:704,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_962_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:628,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/eHRn_kaggWHHpLz-tM444-FJ3jI=/850×551/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:551,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/042d_IWm9FGJ1ZmGwATenS-UkRI=/650×421/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:421,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/4ZU-GmK2btwkE1ZJ6Zsohkb0pWo=/605×392/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:392,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/W-033b_gBsbvO5hMtmHJJJpDzo4=/480×311/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:311,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Ufq46p7eep0cX1S9wvEwgyEQczo=/400×259/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:259,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/LPb04qh17vtAu0TFvljaKbQzOd4=/320×207/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:207,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EFuoZqnzg81Bq95u5rr55VH1QDY=/93×60/smart/filters:cb(1581453388707)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_obliqua.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:60,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”


The House of Monstera is a small, two-bedroom Toronto apartment where Bryce Fulton and Christian de Los Reyes live and grow hundreds of rare plants, in a second bedroom away from their bulldog. Concerned neighbours once thought they were running a grow-op. Nope. Just a medley of the internet’s most wanted monsteras, philodendrons and anthuriums.

They met while working for Apple a few years ago. Fulton was from Australia, and not used to the long, grey Toronto winter. He found himself in Allan Gardens all the time. He loved it there, and bought a golden pothos plant for his apartment. It was easy to care for — “everyone’s first plant,” he says with a laugh — but it made him happy. When he returned to Australia, they dated long-distance and Fulton suggested de Los Reyes get a plant. So he picked up the same golden pothos at Ikea. They still have it, sitting on a ledge in their apartment.

Fulton eventually returned to Toronto, and it was de Los Reyes who fell hard for the rare stuff when he saw a variegated monstera. He was surprised by the flash of white on the leaves, and the way the plant broke the rules. Soon, they were collecting rare plants, learning about phytosanitary certificates and international plant shipping, spending half of their vacation to the Philippines inside export offices. Their second bedroom became a plant room that mimicked a tropical climate. By the end of 2018, they had a Monstera obliqua, one of the “unicorns” that is only in the hands of a few collectors.

It is a plant that is more hole than leaf, skeletal, almost, like someone plucked it from the mind of Tim Burton.

One commenter wrote online: “Are you selling it?”

“},{“snippet”:”

“,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

They weren’t sure. De Los Reyes thought they should try. There weren’t exactly how-to guides, but they knew the plant sent out runners when it grew up trees and saplings in places like Costa Rica. As their monstera climbed the moss pole in its pot, it did the same, and de Los Reyes went to work, carefully cutting the runners to include the node. Obliquas are difficult to coax into existence, especially in a Toronto apartment. They’re not a slow-growing plant, but they’re slow to establish.

The success rate is about 50 per cent, and it takes at least half a year to grow an obliqua hardy enough to survive shipping. That’s what people are paying for, says de Los Reyes, who goes to work on the plants every morning at 6: “the time it takes us to be able to produce it and take care of as many plants as we do.”

Last spring, they launched their online shop. They had about 40 plants, most priced from $20 to $100, and they sold out within 30 minutes. (The online shop closes during the winter, because it is too cold to ship and they need time to replenish.)

They auctioned the rare stuff last summer. They didn’t want to set the price, and they knew there were doubters. “We didn’t want to be coming off as people who were trying to scam anybody or lie,” Fulton says. “We left it up to the people to decide” on the price.

“},{“snippet”:”

“,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

Drama emerged in the Instagram comments for the obliqua auction: a user wanted proof it was the real deal. A respected member of the rare plant world confirmed it. “what more do you need!” one user said. “Canadian plant nerds rejoice!” typed another.

Villocero of Vancouver snagged the obliqua for $2,400. (Later, he got a variegated Monstera adansonii for about $2,200.)

“},{“type”:”textBreakPoint”,”insertAt”:”contentMiddleBreakPoint”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

The obliqua arrived in the mail and he planted it in a biorb, a terrarium with controlled humidity. “She’s Here!” he posted on Instagram. People started to call him “plant royalty.”

“I’m like, no I’m not,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just a normal person.”

On Facebook groups, photos of “Big leafy bois” and “Queens” draw adoration, emojis and envy. There is camaraderie, but there are haters, too, Villocero says. Prices are a constant topic. There are comparisons to tulip fever, orchid mania, the housing market. Some predict it will crash. Villocero says prices have only gone up since he’s been collecting. One Florida seller says the going rate for an obliqua at auction is $3,300 to $4,000.

A lot of a plant’s value depends on scarcity; mass production is the greatest threat. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden says you can get “almost anything” cloned these days in tissue culture labs, but most of the really nice plants don’t grow fast enough for profit margins, he says. Some variegated plants don’t reproduce their strange colours in cloning.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×862″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453389003,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian De Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto are fully immersed in the plant world after their online business took off, including monstera sales.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/vrZiPgoMepiRlauppyGAFJUBDtU=/1200×862/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:862,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/4RrFuadv-g2K-Qrem4fl-AOiXmk=/1086×780/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:780,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/MHKAFdIILNEDgpPKCuhTLW4XJhU=/968×695/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:695,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_595_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:611,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/skeG5-YLCD0z6FIcNGowaaKJTSQ=/650×467/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:467,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/khNYnEk39BxX4vpSO-qJMSA-PVo=/605×435/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:435,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/51E6Fe_fxvXL4ZsSdhNQJc-4L7s=/480×345/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:345,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PYihA7nb5TIJNJjjoN0vlMJ_JxY=/400×287/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:287,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/45qZ66ZiupKhdRt7rwiYHdlGWio=/320×230/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:230,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EEYxLiYCaO7UJctp_ex52XrfI98=/93×67/smart/filters:cb(1581453389003)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/guys_with_many_plants.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:67,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

De Los Reyes and Fulton know there is instability in the market. They contacted tissue culture experts to see if Monstera obliqua could be cloned in a lab. They were told research to determine its viability would cost a few thousand dollars, and there was no guarantee it would work. They didn’t proceed, but they realize somebody else might. Scott Hyndman, a longtime member of the International Aroid Society and researcher in tissue culture, says labs in Thailand lead the way. Perhaps the “crazy auction prices” might drive “a perceived demand” that would encourage a lab to try, he wrote in an email.

The guys at the House of Monstera aren’t betting on one plant. They’ve spent the winter caring for hundreds of aroids, including a monstera with mottled green and white variegation that produces a “minty” look, and a monstera from Brazil that they expect will fetch a high price at auction, once the weather is warm enough to ship.

At Crystal Star nurseries, they do not propagate. Instead, they import the rare stuff and give the plants TLC for several months so they’re in good shape.

Because people will “flip” the plants for higher prices, they limit the purchase of certain items to one or two per person. They stay on top of trends.

“The worst nightmare for a grower is you grow something and it ends up nobody wants it.”


Long before monstera was described with heart eye emojis, a French botanist described it as a pleasant green plant with “remarkable” piercings, climbing up trees in Martinique. He called it by another name in the 17th century, but a later scholar recognized Monstera adansonii in his description. By the mid-19th century, botanists had brought Monstera deliciosa cuttings back to Europe in “horticultural triumph.” It became a staple of the botanical garden.

Monsteras like warmth and humidity and a tree to grow on. They are native to Central and South America, and part of the aroid family. The distinguishing mark of an aroid is a spathe and spadix that creates a somewhat bizarre, waxy-looking flower, like the peace lily or red anthurium. Aroids are known for dramatic foliage, and they are generally weird-looking — one of the reasons people love them as house plants, says Albert Huntington, past president of the International Aroid Society.

“},{“type”:”articleRelatedInlineSecondary”},{“duration”:”84″,”fullWindowYoutube”:false,”uploadDate”:”2020-02-11T19:03:31″,”thumbnailSize”:”640×480″,”youtubeTags”:”Toronto Star,Toronto,Star”,”registeredOnly”:false,”description”:””,”youtubeid”:”Q7JlPJTYB88″,”type”:”youtube”,”title”:”What is a monstera plant?”,”thumbnailUrl”:”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Q7JlPJTYB88/sddefault.jpg”,”channelTitle”:”Toronto Star”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

The monstera has been somewhat overlooked for most of the society’s four decades of existence. A decade ago, the obliqua — which now fetches thousands — sold for $10. A few people were growing it, but nobody had much interest, Huntington says. It was just another vine.

Plants on the rise always have a good story, he says. A good story makes people want to grow them, and if they’re not widely available, they become an object of desire.

“},{“type”:”cta”,”buttonText”:”Sign Up Now”,”buttonLink”:”/emails.html?utm_source=thestar&utm_medium=inline&utm_campaign=auto&utm_content=torontoheadlines”,”description”:”Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines email newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.”,”title”:”Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

“Have you talked to Mick?” he asks.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×675″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453389236,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Mick Mittermeier and Marco Cedeno-Fonseca on a recent trip to a secret location in southwest Costa Rica with a newly described species of semi-terrestrial monstera. Fonseca is working on a revision of the species.”,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Mick Mittermeier”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/v78J54F-scIt-vK8eM-FluZfnmY=/1200×675/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:675,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/4j_5LDeA5Odr9IHvTAdUBdQqYxs=/1086×611/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:611,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_508_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:545,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/q4pBWykHuEugWssRsdNV0nUaIag=/850×478/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:478,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/G_pNSjs8LzSevDzrNloXtwBXRR8=/650×366/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:366,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/OKq9xFttlV1OFR3rt2lQCfc0_1Q=/605×340/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:340,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/cnEb6iK_ZbdC3pKLja4tCGJsu74=/480×270/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:270,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/GZ0hk4whYzW7QJPhg1NjVKFxk0c=/400×225/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:225,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/n3s07viLRU7bnKU65XXH3CVY-tc=/320×180/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:180,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EwL-llY_0K_AbwMvSgNeo7BtgIY=/93×52/smart/filters:cb(1581453389236)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mick_and_marco.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:52,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

Mick Mittermeier, 27, is a plant collector and monstera lover who lives in Miami. He studied anthropology, not botany, but when it comes to his knowledge of rare plants he’s considered an expert by many. (He was the one who weighed in on the House of Monstera auction, and he’s known by botanists and collectors alike for his enthusiastic sleuthing around plants.)

A few years ago, he noticed people were posting photos of Monstera adansonii on social media, but calling them “Monstera obliqua.” Both plants had holes in their leaves, but the obliqua was smaller, rare, and incredibly complex.

Annoyed by the misinformation, he posted a photo of an obliqua on Instagram.

“This is easily the most misidentified plant I see on social media. This is TRUE Monstera obliqua. There is only one collector I’ve met that has it and everything else you see on #Instagram is more likely than not M. adansonii … If you think you have it, you probably don’t. This has been a public service announcement.”

Some people asked him for proof, so Mittermeier visited botanical gardens around the U.S. He talked to botanists. He tracked down a 1977 academic paper that described 22 species of monstera found in Central and South America.

Mittermeier posted illustrations from the paper on Instagram. (“Would make cool wall art,” one person commented.)

The hashtag #itsneverobliqua became an in-joke, and later, a T-shirt. Baby Monstera obliquas entered the market in Florida, and the circle of ownership widened. Mittermeier, who was given a piece of an obliqua runner from a friend, grew it into his own plant and sold a couple of the offspring for about $400 each in 2018. By 2019, it was selling for upwards of $2,000 at auction, depending on the size.

Monica Carlsen, the education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Garden, thinks the attention is a good thing. While cute animals have helped drive funding for zoological research, botany has never had a charismatic plant equivalent.

“I know that Mick is trying to push monstera as our panda,” she says. She thinks it’s a good idea. Monstera is accessible. While some types are out of reach to most, you can pick up others at Home Depot.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×856″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453393033,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:” The most current revision of the Monstera genus was done by Mike Madison in the 1970s. Madison studied botany at Harvard. He was in Mexico for field work and came across a monstera growing on the trunk of tree. It was a “splendid, outrageous” plant, but when he tried to learn more, he discovered the taxonomy of the genus was “a complete mess,” and most of the species had been described by people who had never seen them growing. For his PhD project, he took on a revision – kind of a “state of the union” for a plant genus. He spent a couple of years travelling in South and Central America collecting plants. Here he is in 1978 in Brazil with a philodendron. When he left the world of tropical botany, it was considered a great loss for the field. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Courtesy Mike Madison”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/DvKwuTgdEilqOWI0QGUBxPOsM0Y=/1200×856/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:856,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/ghOe5UpJJYQasleu1r8TjwG4Qb8=/1086×775/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:775,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_72_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:691,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/tq1lJiZdrFAvFArzUHUbW9c-1oI=/850×606/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:606,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/0IB6iexV1ACYgUhbuwWBB1CG1EE=/650×464/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:464,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/oBj3naPYKJeieBLkPTlGtECEd44=/605×432/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:432,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/b1I85bp_sAsGi8flZmBHUsND00s=/480×342/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:342,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/lCLIC7MLnTbQw29etlaOFACc_Wg=/400×285/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:285,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/FYm6UxQ9iZF3muFd0tU3PTWBg4o=/320×228/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:228,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/eAfshfRwg1XaNsXgEgPIdCSpfqo=/93×66/smart/filters:cb(1581453393033)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/mike_madison_1978.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:66,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

As interest has grown, information about the plant has been limited, Mittermeier says. The seminal academic work continued to be the 1977 paper. The author of the paper, Mike Madison, had no online presence. One article noted that Madison had retired after a short career, a “severe blow” to aroid research. It seemed that just like the Thai Constellation at Allan Gardens, the young botanist had vanished.


In 1970, Madison was in a Mexican forest in a somewhat perplexed state. He was a graduate student then, studying ferns, but a splendid and outrageous monstera caught his eye, growing on a tree trunk. Back at Harvard, he tried to identify the species, but the taxonomy was a mess. Many of the plants had been described by people who had never seen them in the wild.

Someone needed to sort it out, so when it came time for a PhD project, he decided he would write a revision, which is a state of the union for a plant genus. He drove his truck from California until he hit the end of the road in Panama. He put the truck on a boat and kept driving into South America exploring the forests on foot, machete in hand, as he collected and described “some of the most magnificent and conspicuous climbers of the neotropics.”

Most monsteras have holes in the leaves, a source of beauty and mystery. Were they a sign of weakness? A way to conserve energy? An evolutionary hack to allow water to drip through to the roots? Nobody knew.

He compared his findings with the existing knowledge and came up with a list of 22 species and three varieties.

A handful of botanists were working in the tropics in the 1970s. There was little bureaucracy, and great urgency. It wasn’t uncommon to work in a dense primary forest only to return the following year to find a banana farm in its place. “We all recognized that the forest was being cut at a very fast rate,” Madison says. It felt like it might be the last chance to see certain species, keep them alive through collection efforts, or at the very least, make a record of what used to exist.

When Madison published his revision, it didn’t generate any buzz. Monstera was an “obscure genera that nobody much cared about,” he says.

He worked on other plants, but it felt like an existential vacuum. He left botany in 1981. He got married and found domestic life “a lot more appealing than sleeping on the ground in the jungle.” He worked in construction and edited medical books so he could get a farm going in the Sacramento Valley, which is what he does today. Every day, he scours Craigslist for old tractors, and wouldn’t you know it, he sees a lot of monstera plants there. He can’t believe the prices. Suddenly, the world cares about his old friends.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”805×1200″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453943164,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Monica Carlsen, the assistant scientist and education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, says botany is in need of a “panda.” Maybe they have it in monstera. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Missouri Botanical Garden”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”crop”:”0,221,805,908″,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/PZRLAcCbGRuAqW-_R-MlxjG7xBU=/0x221:805×908/1086×927/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:927,”scalefactor”:135},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531001_846_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:826,”scalefactor”:120},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/OPo8rGbsXP2C0ASP890UbgT1-3A=/0x221:805×908/850×725/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:725,”scalefactor”:106},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/AIhs1bxWgs_LC5cG-XLGzRA-H7w=/0x221:805×908/805×687/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:805,”height”:687,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/j6irZT46DsH_eglEievfq7Hut8o=/0x221:805×908/650×555/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:555,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Xwe8VrQAYxaKmtujS4Mqta6mF6A=/0x221:805×908/605×516/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:516,”scalefactor”:75},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/K7zLJRfYaDxWu3RYRfr8vf_eak4=/0x221:805×908/480×410/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:410,”scalefactor”:60},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/sBfkcsc1c7ZXCjmPHG6KTzmeiRo=/0x221:805×908/400×341/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:341,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/GdGfSp-r0lVlyBUbPrgsKA4-RNE=/0x221:805×908/320×273/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:273,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/5NuJlWelx3dGc-fIZ1RDLL6XOp4=/0x221:805×908/93×79/smart/filters:cb(1581453943164)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/monica_carlsen.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:79,”scalefactor”:12}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”


More than four decades after Madison described the species, an update is in the works. For botanists, it’s akin to a book release.

“Everybody is expecting the sequel of the Lord of Rings,” says Monica Carlsen. Will there be new characters? Will every species survive?

Legendary botanist Tom Croat — who has worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years — teamed up with the “remarkable” Marco Cedeno-Fonseca for the revision. Cedeno-Fonseca worked on a taxonomic review of monstera for his master’s degree at the University of Costa Rica, and his work became part of Croat’s larger undertaking to classify and update 25 genera of aroids from Panama to southern Mexico. The work is not yet published, but they expect around 60 species of monstera in their revision, which is a big jump from Madison’s 22.

Many of these countries are more accessible, but Madison says the number of species depends on the botanist. He was more impressed by similarities, which meant fewer species in total. (While Madison noted one species of obliqua in 1977, Croat says it was “overclumped” and will likely be divided into several species in their upcoming revision.)

In the 1970s, you could easily ship live plants home. That’s how so many tropical plants ended up in botanical gardens, and later spread to private collectors. (Mittermeier traces the obliqua currently in circulation to a 1975 collection in Peru.) Regulations tightened in the 1990s as governments faced pressure to conserve their forests, but as Croat notes, deforestation continues.

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”798×1200″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453580459,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Tom Croat has been with the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years. “It’s easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms,” he laments,”than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you’re cutting down.””,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Missouri Botanical Garden”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”crop”:”0,135,798,687″,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/2eotUG3SZUrNCCJdo6SvbTEdFxQ=/0x135:798×687/1086×751/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:751,”scalefactor”:136},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/aLY4tF0LvYGoq4YYKxAWdKa0ZnE=/0x135:798×687/968×670/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:670,”scalefactor”:121},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531002_641_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:588,”scalefactor”:107},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/qNMoLZev3QBhqIy-IZTnlYCTB-U=/0x135:798×687/798×552/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:798,”height”:552,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Em7kTc7CeV05bOgAaqckPcno_DA=/0x135:798×687/650×450/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:450,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/uY4C5JGkXkNundJ6jtZpt-8PPFU=/0x135:798×687/605×418/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:418,”scalefactor”:76},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/Dyko1Ht14Dmm5SjgrWz-Vg0JYNg=/0x135:798×687/480×332/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:332,”scalefactor”:60},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/fZTXS-DzU5untSUIGzvkAJM08EQ=/0x135:798×687/400×277/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:277,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/DTNAtCwS5MV4v6Xikwq7nZ7E6os=/0x135:798×687/320×221/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:221,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/khVJudRDwI1uBKY6INubHLxETpQ=/0x135:798×687/93×64/smart/filters:cb(1581453580459)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/tom_croat.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:64,”scalefactor”:12}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”

“It’s easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms,” he laments,“than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you’re cutting down.”

Croat is 82. His greatest fear is that plants will go extinct before anybody sees them, and he worries that modern botany is more concerned with molecular biology than field work. “There is a century of work that still needs to be done.”

There are more Latin American botanists doing field work, but funding and publishing remain big challenges.

Mick Mittermeier helped raise money for Cedeno-Fonseca’s field work and joined him in Costa Rica a few months ago. Speaking together on the phone, they described how some plants were easy to locate, while others required a seven-day trek through the mountains, seven nights in hammocks, and a knack for climbing trees.

They spotted one new species of monstera at the bottom of a slick, muddy hillside that was covered in a “nasty, spiky vine.”

“By the time we came back up, all our clothes were ripped up and we were bleeding,” says Mittermeier. “Nothing more fun.”

“},{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”origImageSize”:”1200×867″,”fullWindowGenericImage”:false,”lastmodified”:1581453393945,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Monstera deliciosa borsigiana albo variegated ranges between $300 and 500. “,”type”:”genericimage”,”credit”:”Toronto Star”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/EeNkC6VvrxpHzIn0coV6cT5ZC2g=/1200×867/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:1200,”height”:867,”scalefactor”:100},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/xkjkRzCp0j-5naGgQm4ISHITNfg=/1086×785/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:1086,”height”:785,”scalefactor”:91},{“url”:”http://wwwhive.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/1581531002_43_Would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-Why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-Instagram.jpg”,”width”:968,”height”:699,”scalefactor”:81},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/sv1pyM-_JlVafUw7PWF3UT0pQ1E=/850×614/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:850,”height”:614,”scalefactor”:71},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/q2xh9a_U3ZEXZe8hPMC25Wh6EZE=/650×470/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:650,”height”:470,”scalefactor”:54},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/xNorpwushg2c3Rw-5iFLN2X_Fac=/605×437/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:605,”height”:437,”scalefactor”:50},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/cg9u4ilVDmdO7YxLwJAIG3Qsq3Q=/480×347/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:480,”height”:347,”scalefactor”:40},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/V9Nqm27dZrzSzApXT3UB_q1ohNw=/400×289/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:400,”height”:289,”scalefactor”:33},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/dAJxSR_NxNOw-eOJmtU2AYeRvG4=/320×231/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:320,”height”:231,”scalefactor”:27},{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/32X-sl34xTaIt9f8IW5ZlxjUsIE=/93×67/smart/filters:cb(1581453393945)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/detail_monstera_delciosa_borsigiana_albo.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:67,”scalefactor”:8}]},{“type”:”text”,”text”:”


When Mittermeier first visited plant collectors in Florida, many were delighted by his enthusiasm and generous with their time. They invited him into their homes, and even sent him away with cuttings. But collectors are less trusting these days.

“There is such a concern that when the collectors travel, people are just going to come back in the night and steal everything,” he says.

He rarely lets people visit, except friends. He says people are brazen when they visit botanical gardens, armed with knives, clippers and little consideration for the plant or the people who want to see it.

“Like all botanical gardens, we are aware of the problem of plants being stolen from our collections and we are taking measures to prevent it,” a spokesperson from the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida wrote in an email.

Allan Gardens is far removed from swashbuckling botanists in the neotropics, but the rising popularity of rare aroids has brought intrigue to Jarvis Street. You can still find plenty of Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii there, but none of the unicorns — at least not at the moment.

Supervisor Curtis Evoy concedes that the downtown oasis may not be the best setting for those plants. Some renovation work is coming up, and if they tried again after that, they’d have to be strategic. Many of their small and special orchids are behind glass for security reasons.

At the Gardens, life moves on. Joe Gaudaur planted a donated mango tree where the Thai Constellation used to be.

It’s still standing.

Katie Daubs is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @kdaubs

“},{“type”:”trustbar”},{“type”:”articleRelated”,”display”:”small-only”},{“type”:”text”,”text”:””},{“type”:”related_topics”,”tags”:[“vancouver”]},{“type”:”newsletterbox”}],”assetTags”:[“monstera_obliqua”,”smg_gta”,”monstera”,”houseplant”,”allan_gardens”,”daubs_katie”,”monstera”,”smg2_news”,”joe_gaudaur”,”plants”,”topstory”,”araceae”,”algolock”,”convos”,”plants”,”philodendron”,”collectors”,”botany”,”vancouver”,”allan_gardens”,”curtis_evoy”,”epiphytes”],”seoKeywords”:”monstera,Monstera obliqua,Allan Gardens,plants,collectors,Botany,Vancouver,topstory,smg_gta,smg2_news,algolock,convos”,”excludeInRecommendations”:false,”promo”:[{“snippet”:””,”heading”:””,”fullWindow”:false,”fullBleed”:false,”showFullBleedOnMobile”:false,”headColor”:””,”type”:”html5mobile”,”textColor”:””,”mobileImageUrl”:””,”bgColor”:””,”imageUrl”:””,”registeredOnly”:false,”linkUrl”:””,”internalScroll”:false,”displayStyle”:”small-up”}],”related”:{“pubdays”:0,”strategy”:0},”seoHead”:”Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram”,”headline”:”Would you pay $3,000 for a house plant? Why monstera collectors are investing in these delicate darlings of Instagram”,”subheadline”:”The internet — and millennials — are in love with rare tropical plants, such as the monstera. As prices keep going up, one Toronto couple with a green thumb is helping to feed the frenzy.”,”canonicalUrl”:”https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram.html”,”seoDescription”:”The internet — and millennials — are in love with rare tropical plants, such as the monstera. As prices keep going up, one Toronto couple with a green thumb is helping to feed the frenzy.”,”enableConversations”:true,”enableConversationsPoseQuestion”:true,”publishedepoch”:1581501600000,”lastmodifiedepoch”:1581517142578,”abstractVisible”:false,”poseQuestion”:”How much would you pay for a plant? Share your thoughts”,”abstract”:”The internet — and millennials — are in love with rare tropical plants, such as the monstera. As prices keep going up, one Toronto couple with a green thumb is helping to feed the frenzy.”,”relatedLinks”:[“

What you need to know before you import or export rare plants in Canada

“],”paywallMode”:”locked”,”storyuuid”:”dec2232f-b23e-450a-a9f9-a8d108d55e00″,”slideshowid”:”B881006399Z.1″,”lastmodified”:”02 12 2020″,”lastreplicated”:”9:19 AM, Wed., Feb. 12, 2020″,”readtime”:17,”breadcrumbs”:[{“label”:”News”,”relurl”:”/news”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news.html”},{“label”:”GTA”,”relurl”:”/news/gta”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news/gta.html”}],”authors”:[{“janrainUuid”:”5cc9cfbf-6ca2-4c7f-9e43-f5ec141c2f02″,”author”:”Katie Daubs”,”photo”:{“origImageSize”:”4780×3187″,”lastmodified”:2700061000,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/columnist_logos/Daubs_Katie_logo2015.JPG.size.custom.crop.640×360.jpg”},”location”:”Toronto”,”tag”:”daubs_katie”,”credit”:”Feature Writer”,”twitterId”:”kdaubs”,”email”:”kdaubs@thestar.ca”}],”basic”:true,”numOfParagraphs”:86,”liftigImage”:{“captionPosition”:”overlay”,”fullWindowMainart”:false,”type”:”image”,”imageid”:”GAUS8L9D.2″,”origImageSize”:”1200×769″,”cropthumb”:”0,94,1200,769″,”lastmodified”:1581524524710,”forceoriginal”:false,”caption”:”Christian de Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto started the House of Monstera Instagram account in 2018, and have propagated some rare aroid plants.”,”source”:”Toronto Star”,”credit”:”Steve Russell”,”url”:”/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”renditions”:[{“url”:”https://images.thestar.com/O2gxQR6N9S5k1zp4aa2jWvFWINs=/0x94:1200×769/93×52/smart/filters:cb(1581524524710)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram/christian_and_bryce.jpg”,”width”:93,”height”:52,”scalefactor”:8,”aspect”:”wide”}]},”seopublisheddate”:”2020-02-12″,”seomodifieddate”:”2020-02-12″,”primarylabel”:{“label”:”GTA”,”relurl”:”/news/gta”,”url”:”https://www.thestar.com/content/thestar/news/gta.html”},”totalParas”:80,”additionalEvents”:”,event29″},”loaded”:true,”comscore”:”pageview_candidate”,”paywall”:true,”ogUrlMetatag”:”https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/02/12/would-you-pay-3000-for-a-house-plant-why-monstera-collectors-are-investing-in-these-delicate-darlings-of-instagram.html”}
//–>

ADVERTISEMENT

Christian de Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto started the House of Monstera Instagram account in 2018, and have propagated some rare aroid plants.

The plant thief didn’t need a shovel.

The variegated monstera was a fresh transplant inside the tropical landscape house of Allan Gardens, and its heart-shaped leaves had pleasing flecks of white and yellow.

That section of the conservatory is a jumble of exuberant tropical plants that gardener Joe Gaudaur oversees. He planted the monstera there in July 2018, tucked away from the pathway. Staff are mindful of where certain things grow. Fruit trees, for instance, are often out of reach, because they know it’s hard to resist the allure of lemons in downtown Toronto. Gaudaur knew the monstera was something of a celebrity, part of a genus that had shot to orchid-level fame.

When he walked by a couple of days later to see if it needed water, he saw an empty space. The root system didn’t have a chance to entrench, so he imagined it slipped easily from the soil, like a baby tooth hanging by a thread.

Monstera plants have hole-filled leaves, which evoke an arresting, architectural beauty. There are many species and not all are coveted. The most widely cultivated is the “swiss cheese” Monstera deliciosa, a hardy climber with gigantic split leaves that you can find for $20 to $100 at local plant shops or Kijiji. Allan Gardens has deliciosas in its central palm house, as well as Monstera adansonii, another common species. Widely available, they have been left to grow big and strong, as all plants should.

Monstera adansonii variegated.

Allan Gardens doesn’t have any of the rare monsteras, which can cost upwards of $2,000. Their variegated monstera was a cultivar called the Thai Constellation, loved by many for a genetic mutation that gives the leaves dashes of white for a marbled look. The plant was entry-level but still rare enough that plant influencers unbox them on YouTube, racking up thousands of views and dozens of comments: “Congratulations on your new beautiful baby.” “I’m so jealous.”

Eric Lee has seen this kind of mania before. He and his wife own Crystal Star Nurseries in East Gwillimbury, and they’ve been working with rare plants and orchids for 30 years. People loved bonsai after “The Karate Kid.” Orchids came on strong in the 1990s. More recently, people took to cacti and succulents. Now, he says, it’s hoya and aroids, the latter of which is the plant family the monstera belongs to. Two-thirds of the buyers are under 35.

He imports many of his rare plants from Asia, including the Thai Constellation that Allan Gardens bought for $70 about two years ago. (There is such a global demand for the plant that prices overseas keep going up. It now sells for about $100 to $150 depending on size and quality.)

When Gaudaur planted it in July 2018, it was an unassuming little plant. The true beauty would come in a few months, when preprogrammed cell death created holes or “fenestrations” in the leaves. The holes would grow bigger, eventually splitting the edges of the leaves. He believes the monstera was targeted, because you had to know where to look, and you had to know what it would become. Maybe somebody overheard him talking about it to an enthusiastic visitor. Maybe the visitor’s enthusiasm was hiding sinister intentions.

It wasn’t the first time a plant disappeared. Allan Gardens stresses that it is not a “free-for-all” at the downtown greenhouse. But there are occasional guests who bring scissors.

Gaudaur once stood up from a soil bed to find a woman hacking at a hibiscus branch with kitchen shears. She believed it her right since the garden was public, and he explained that the public could not visit the hibiscus plant inside her home. Another staff member walked into the succulent house to find a man trying to break off a chunk of a blue cactus. A few years ago, they had another variegated monstera in their central palm house. It was a fairly good size, until the unauthorized cutting began. Pieces went missing, bit by bit, when nobody was looking. It vanished into nothingness.

“We’ve tried to replace it a few times,” says Curtis Evoy, the city’s supervisor of conservatories and horticultural display. “The plant just kind of disappears.”

Jonathan Villocero of Vancouver poses with a few of his monstera plants. He started collecting rare plants a year ago, and is now propagating some of his plants to help fund his hobby.

Jonathan Villocero lives in Vancouver, where his main business is gourmet salts. He has a vintage shop, runs craft fairs, maintains beehives in his backyard, hand-spins his own yarn, and shows Portuguese Water Dogs, among other creative hobbies. He has spent his life searching for the “next best thing.” About a year ago, rare plants took over.

Villocero fell into the quicksand of beguiling leaves with Latin names after watching a YouTube video. He loves the thrill of the hunt, and soon he was on a quest for his “holy trinity” of super-rare plants, which included two monsteras and an obscure pendant-leafed philodendron. The going rate at auctions for each of these plants was thousands of dollars.

“Some of my friends they look at me like I’m a nut,” he says. But when he explains that he can make his investment back when he propagates them, they understand. He acknowledges he’s fortunate. At 52, he’s older than the mostly millennial crowd that chases rare plants, and he has a business and investments that can support the hobby. Before he jumped in, he did his research, made connections, but he couldn’t land the plants. That made them more appealing.

“Oh my God, you’re into another hobby now and this is the most expensive one,” he remembers his partner saying.

(Actually, show dogs are more expensive, he says.)

Last summer, he found a lead. Two guys in Toronto had started a business called the House of Monstera. “I hounded them,” he says, laughing about his weekly emails. He was in luck. That July, they were auctioning off a baby Monstera obliqua.

Monstera obliqua.

The House of Monstera is a small, two-bedroom Toronto apartment where Bryce Fulton and Christian de Los Reyes live and grow hundreds of rare plants, in a second bedroom away from their bulldog. Concerned neighbours once thought they were running a grow-op. Nope. Just a medley of the internet’s most wanted monsteras, philodendrons and anthuriums.

They met while working for Apple a few years ago. Fulton was from Australia, and not used to the long, grey Toronto winter. He found himself in Allan Gardens all the time. He loved it there, and bought a golden pothos plant for his apartment. It was easy to care for — “everyone’s first plant,” he says with a laugh — but it made him happy. When he returned to Australia, they dated long-distance and Fulton suggested de Los Reyes get a plant. So he picked up the same golden pothos at Ikea. They still have it, sitting on a ledge in their apartment.

Fulton eventually returned to Toronto, and it was de Los Reyes who fell hard for the rare stuff when he saw a variegated monstera. He was surprised by the flash of white on the leaves, and the way the plant broke the rules. Soon, they were collecting rare plants, learning about phytosanitary certificates and international plant shipping, spending half of their vacation to the Philippines inside export offices. Their second bedroom became a plant room that mimicked a tropical climate. By the end of 2018, they had a Monstera obliqua, one of the “unicorns” that is only in the hands of a few collectors.

It is a plant that is more hole than leaf, skeletal, almost, like someone plucked it from the mind of Tim Burton.

One commenter wrote online: “Are you selling it?”

They weren’t sure. De Los Reyes thought they should try. There weren’t exactly how-to guides, but they knew the plant sent out runners when it grew up trees and saplings in places like Costa Rica. As their monstera climbed the moss pole in its pot, it did the same, and de Los Reyes went to work, carefully cutting the runners to include the node. Obliquas are difficult to coax into existence, especially in a Toronto apartment. They’re not a slow-growing plant, but they’re slow to establish.

The success rate is about 50 per cent, and it takes at least half a year to grow an obliqua hardy enough to survive shipping. That’s what people are paying for, says de Los Reyes, who goes to work on the plants every morning at 6: “the time it takes us to be able to produce it and take care of as many plants as we do.”

Last spring, they launched their online shop. They had about 40 plants, most priced from $20 to $100, and they sold out within 30 minutes. (The online shop closes during the winter, because it is too cold to ship and they need time to replenish.)

They auctioned the rare stuff last summer. They didn’t want to set the price, and they knew there were doubters. “We didn’t want to be coming off as people who were trying to scam anybody or lie,” Fulton says. “We left it up to the people to decide” on the price.

Drama emerged in the Instagram comments for the obliqua auction: a user wanted proof it was the real deal. A respected member of the rare plant world confirmed it. “what more do you need!” one user said. “Canadian plant nerds rejoice!” typed another.

Villocero of Vancouver snagged the obliqua for $2,400. (Later, he got a variegated Monstera adansonii for about $2,200.)

The obliqua arrived in the mail and he planted it in a biorb, a terrarium with controlled humidity. “She’s Here!” he posted on Instagram. People started to call him “plant royalty.”

“I’m like, no I’m not,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just a normal person.”

On Facebook groups, photos of “Big leafy bois” and “Queens” draw adoration, emojis and envy. There is camaraderie, but there are haters, too, Villocero says. Prices are a constant topic. There are comparisons to tulip fever, orchid mania, the housing market. Some predict it will crash. Villocero says prices have only gone up since he’s been collecting. One Florida seller says the going rate for an obliqua at auction is $3,300 to $4,000.

A lot of a plant’s value depends on scarcity; mass production is the greatest threat. Tom Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden says you can get “almost anything” cloned these days in tissue culture labs, but most of the really nice plants don’t grow fast enough for profit margins, he says. Some variegated plants don’t reproduce their strange colours in cloning.

Christian De Los Reyes and Bryce Fulton of Toronto are fully immersed in the plant world after their online business took off, including monstera sales.

De Los Reyes and Fulton know there is instability in the market. They contacted tissue culture experts to see if Monstera obliqua could be cloned in a lab. They were told research to determine its viability would cost a few thousand dollars, and there was no guarantee it would work. They didn’t proceed, but they realize somebody else might. Scott Hyndman, a longtime member of the International Aroid Society and researcher in tissue culture, says labs in Thailand lead the way. Perhaps the “crazy auction prices” might drive “a perceived demand” that would encourage a lab to try, he wrote in an email.

The guys at the House of Monstera aren’t betting on one plant. They’ve spent the winter caring for hundreds of aroids, including a monstera with mottled green and white variegation that produces a “minty” look, and a monstera from Brazil that they expect will fetch a high price at auction, once the weather is warm enough to ship.

At Crystal Star nurseries, they do not propagate. Instead, they import the rare stuff and give the plants TLC for several months so they’re in good shape.

Because people will “flip” the plants for higher prices, they limit the purchase of certain items to one or two per person. They stay on top of trends.

“The worst nightmare for a grower is you grow something and it ends up nobody wants it.”

Long before monstera was described with heart eye emojis, a French botanist described it as a pleasant green plant with “remarkable” piercings, climbing up trees in Martinique. He called it by another name in the 17th century, but a later scholar recognized Monstera adansonii in his description. By the mid-19th century, botanists had brought Monstera deliciosa cuttings back to Europe in “horticultural triumph.” It became a staple of the botanical garden.

Monsteras like warmth and humidity and a tree to grow on. They are native to Central and South America, and part of the aroid family. The distinguishing mark of an aroid is a spathe and spadix that creates a somewhat bizarre, waxy-looking flower, like the peace lily or red anthurium. Aroids are known for dramatic foliage, and they are generally weird-looking — one of the reasons people love them as house plants, says Albert Huntington, past president of the International Aroid Society.

The monstera has been somewhat overlooked for most of the society’s four decades of existence. A decade ago, the obliqua — which now fetches thousands — sold for $10. A few people were growing it, but nobody had much interest, Huntington says. It was just another vine.

Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox

Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines email newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.

Sign Up Now

Plants on the rise always have a good story, he says. A good story makes people want to grow them, and if they’re not widely available, they become an object of desire.

“Have you talked to Mick?” he asks.

Mick Mittermeier and Marco Cedeno-Fonseca on a recent trip to a secret location in southwest Costa Rica with a newly described species of semi-terrestrial monstera. Fonseca is working on a revision of the species.

Mick Mittermeier, 27, is a plant collector and monstera lover who lives in Miami. He studied anthropology, not botany, but when it comes to his knowledge of rare plants he’s considered an expert by many. (He was the one who weighed in on the House of Monstera auction, and he’s known by botanists and collectors alike for his enthusiastic sleuthing around plants.)

A few years ago, he noticed people were posting photos of Monstera adansonii on social media, but calling them “Monstera obliqua.” Both plants had holes in their leaves, but the obliqua was smaller, rare, and incredibly complex.

Annoyed by the misinformation, he posted a photo of an obliqua on Instagram.

“This is easily the most misidentified plant I see on social media. This is TRUE Monstera obliqua. There is only one collector I’ve met that has it and everything else you see on #Instagram is more likely than not M. adansonii … If you think you have it, you probably don’t. This has been a public service announcement.”

Some people asked him for proof, so Mittermeier visited botanical gardens around the U.S. He talked to botanists. He tracked down a 1977 academic paper that described 22 species of monstera found in Central and South America.

Mittermeier posted illustrations from the paper on Instagram. (“Would make cool wall art,” one person commented.)

The hashtag #itsneverobliqua became an in-joke, and later, a T-shirt. Baby Monstera obliquas entered the market in Florida, and the circle of ownership widened. Mittermeier, who was given a piece of an obliqua runner from a friend, grew it into his own plant and sold a couple of the offspring for about $400 each in 2018. By 2019, it was selling for upwards of $2,000 at auction, depending on the size.

Monica Carlsen, the education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Garden, thinks the attention is a good thing. While cute animals have helped drive funding for zoological research, botany has never had a charismatic plant equivalent.

“I know that Mick is trying to push monstera as our panda,” she says. She thinks it’s a good idea. Monstera is accessible. While some types are out of reach to most, you can pick up others at Home Depot.

The most current revision of the Monstera genus was done by Mike Madison in the 1970s. Madison studied botany at Harvard. He was in Mexico for field work and came across a monstera growing on the trunk of tree. It was a "splendid, outrageous" plant, but when he tried to learn more, he discovered the taxonomy of the genus was "a complete mess," and most of the species had been described by people who had never seen them growing. For his PhD project, he took on a revision - kind of a "state of the union" for a plant genus. He spent a couple of years travelling in South and Central America collecting plants. Here he is in 1978 in Brazil with a philodendron. When he left the world of tropical botany, it was considered a great loss for the field.

As interest has grown, information about the plant has been limited, Mittermeier says. The seminal academic work continued to be the 1977 paper. The author of the paper, Mike Madison, had no online presence. One article noted that Madison had retired after a short career, a “severe blow” to aroid research. It seemed that just like the Thai Constellation at Allan Gardens, the young botanist had vanished.

In 1970, Madison was in a Mexican forest in a somewhat perplexed state. He was a graduate student then, studying ferns, but a splendid and outrageous monstera caught his eye, growing on a tree trunk. Back at Harvard, he tried to identify the species, but the taxonomy was a mess. Many of the plants had been described by people who had never seen them in the wild.

Someone needed to sort it out, so when it came time for a PhD project, he decided he would write a revision, which is a state of the union for a plant genus. He drove his truck from California until he hit the end of the road in Panama. He put the truck on a boat and kept driving into South America exploring the forests on foot, machete in hand, as he collected and described “some of the most magnificent and conspicuous climbers of the neotropics.”

Most monsteras have holes in the leaves, a source of beauty and mystery. Were they a sign of weakness? A way to conserve energy? An evolutionary hack to allow water to drip through to the roots? Nobody knew.

He compared his findings with the existing knowledge and came up with a list of 22 species and three varieties.

A handful of botanists were working in the tropics in the 1970s. There was little bureaucracy, and great urgency. It wasn’t uncommon to work in a dense primary forest only to return the following year to find a banana farm in its place. “We all recognized that the forest was being cut at a very fast rate,” Madison says. It felt like it might be the last chance to see certain species, keep them alive through collection efforts, or at the very least, make a record of what used to exist.

When Madison published his revision, it didn’t generate any buzz. Monstera was an “obscure genera that nobody much cared about,” he says.

He worked on other plants, but it felt like an existential vacuum. He left botany in 1981. He got married and found domestic life “a lot more appealing than sleeping on the ground in the jungle.” He worked in construction and edited medical books so he could get a farm going in the Sacramento Valley, which is what he does today. Every day, he scours Craigslist for old tractors, and wouldn’t you know it, he sees a lot of monstera plants there. He can’t believe the prices. Suddenly, the world cares about his old friends.

Monica Carlsen, the assistant scientist and education co-ordinator at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, says botany is in need of a "panda." Maybe they have it in monstera.

More than four decades after Madison described the species, an update is in the works. For botanists, it’s akin to a book release.

“Everybody is expecting the sequel of the Lord of Rings,” says Monica Carlsen. Will there be new characters? Will every species survive?

Legendary botanist Tom Croat — who has worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years — teamed up with the “remarkable” Marco Cedeno-Fonseca for the revision. Cedeno-Fonseca worked on a taxonomic review of monstera for his master’s degree at the University of Costa Rica, and his work became part of Croat’s larger undertaking to classify and update 25 genera of aroids from Panama to southern Mexico. The work is not yet published, but they expect around 60 species of monstera in their revision, which is a big jump from Madison’s 22.

Many of these countries are more accessible, but Madison says the number of species depends on the botanist. He was more impressed by similarities, which meant fewer species in total. (While Madison noted one species of obliqua in 1977, Croat says it was “overclumped” and will likely be divided into several species in their upcoming revision.)

In the 1970s, you could easily ship live plants home. That’s how so many tropical plants ended up in botanical gardens, and later spread to private collectors. (Mittermeier traces the obliqua currently in circulation to a 1975 collection in Peru.) Regulations tightened in the 1990s as governments faced pressure to conserve their forests, but as Croat notes, deforestation continues.

Tom Croat has been with the Missouri Botanical Garden for 53 years. "It's easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms," he laments,"than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you're cutting down."

“It’s easier to get a permit to cut 1,000 hectares of virgin forest to grow oil palms,” he laments,“than it is for me to get a permit to collect one sample off the tree you’re cutting down.”

Croat is 82. His greatest fear is that plants will go extinct before anybody sees them, and he worries that modern botany is more concerned with molecular biology than field work. “There is a century of work that still needs to be done.”

There are more Latin American botanists doing field work, but funding and publishing remain big challenges.

Mick Mittermeier helped raise money for Cedeno-Fonseca’s field work and joined him in Costa Rica a few months ago. Speaking together on the phone, they described how some plants were easy to locate, while others required a seven-day trek through the mountains, seven nights in hammocks, and a knack for climbing trees.

They spotted one new species of monstera at the bottom of a slick, muddy hillside that was covered in a “nasty, spiky vine.”

“By the time we came back up, all our clothes were ripped up and we were bleeding,” says Mittermeier. “Nothing more fun.”

Monstera deliciosa borsigiana albo variegated ranges between $300 and 500.

When Mittermeier first visited plant collectors in Florida, many were delighted by his enthusiasm and generous with their time. They invited him into their homes, and even sent him away with cuttings. But collectors are less trusting these days.

“There is such a concern that when the collectors travel, people are just going to come back in the night and steal everything,” he says.

He rarely lets people visit, except friends. He says people are brazen when they visit botanical gardens, armed with knives, clippers and little consideration for the plant or the people who want to see it.

“Like all botanical gardens, we are aware of the problem of plants being stolen from our collections and we are taking measures to prevent it,” a spokesperson from the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Florida wrote in an email.

Allan Gardens is far removed from swashbuckling botanists in the neotropics, but the rising popularity of rare aroids has brought intrigue to Jarvis Street. You can still find plenty of Monstera deliciosa and Monstera adansonii there, but none of the unicorns — at least not at the moment.

Supervisor Curtis Evoy concedes that the downtown oasis may not be the best setting for those plants. Some renovation work is coming up, and if they tried again after that, they’d have to be strategic. Many of their small and special orchids are behind glass for security reasons.

At the Gardens, life moves on. Joe Gaudaur planted a donated mango tree where the Thai Constellation used to be.

It’s still standing.

Katie Daubs

Katie Daubs is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @kdaubs

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Error!We have suspended your account in accordance with our Code of Conduct. For more information please visit Code of Conduct

Q:

How much would you pay for a plant? Share your thoughts

Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

More from The Star & Partners





Source link