In this article we’re going to cover a group of really neat looking Monsteras that have a complex history and confusing taxonomy; this includes “Monstera dilacerata” (the wrong name), “Monstera Sierrana” (also a wrong name) and another common Brazilian variant of M. deliciosa that gets bucketed in with var. sierrana. We’ll clear up the confusion, cover examples of each, and touch briefly on care at the very end. What makes this topic more challenging is that to the untrained eye, all three plants look pretty similar and that’s probably why the names have often been used interchangeably and photos shared on Instagram, Google and Facebook are frequently misclassified.
Credit is due: This article has been somewhat coauthored by Mick Mittermeier (@mickmitty on Instagram), Mario Blanco, Eduardo Goulart, Eric Anderson, Tom Piergrossi and Siddharth Nc whose taxonomic expertise or involvement in the plant trade exceed my own. Mario has offered a great deal of insight on the topic, as has Mick who has also been posting about these three plants for a while now. If you scour Facebook you can find fragments of the history through discussion threads, but that information hadn’t been consolidated or “Google-able”, which is why I’ve compiled it here in this post and filled in as many blanks as I could.
It’s Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’, not Monstera dilacerata
Many people have been calling this plant Monstera dilacerata. However, the “real” Monstera dilacerata was actually an Epipremnum pinnatum which had been given to a botanical garden and classified as a new species (even though that it had already been classified) [Aroideana]. You see, the name ‘Monstera dilacerata’ is actually a synonym for Epipremnum pinnatum, and that means “this other plant” (which that isn’t E. pinnatum) can’t also be called Monstera dilacerata!
As of the publication of this article “not-dilacerata” is formally unclassified, and for the short-term its been given the informal cultivar name, Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’—named after Roberto Burle Marx, the renowned plant collector and landscape architect who owned the original specimen. Burle Marx didn’t keep spectacular notes on the origin of that plant (or others in his collection), so no one definitively knows where it was collected from.
It is possible that the name, M. ‘Burle Marx Flame’ may change in the future—in the event a wild specimen is found, formally classified and registered by whoever finds it.
Image of the plant from Burle Marx’s collection
– photo from Aroideana (1981) –
Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’ (which has been written incorrectly as M. dilacerata and Monstera sp. brazil)
Monstera sp. brazil or M. ‘Burle Marx Flame’
Some have been calling M. ‘Burle Marx Flame’, “Monstera sp. brazil” under the misconception that is native to Brazil. However, Monstera species from the section Tornelia (like deliciosa and the variants within) are known to be native only to Central America. They have been introduced to South America, are now invasive in areas like Brazil, and can now be found growing wild there. People have collected plants from these areas and assumed they are native, but they are not. So this “sp. brazil” shouldn’t be applied. You can dive into details about the section Tornelia of the Monstera genus, here in Aroideana Vol. 43.
This may be a bit pedantic, but the name “Monstera Sierrana”, isn’t technically accurate at the moment, because it implies a hybrid, cultivar or species (depending on how you capitalize or ‘quote’ Sierrana). The correct way of writing it is, “Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana”, as it is currently believed to be a variant of Monstera deliciosa. That’s a mouthful though and people have a tendency to incorrectly shorthand it to Monstera Sierrana. It’s important to note, there is a possibility this is actually a distinct species, in which case the variant would be broken out and given a species name (similar to what happened to Monstera tacanaensis); however, at this point that topic is still under review by taxonomists.
Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana was first found in 1961 [jstor.org] from the Sierra de Juárez mountain range in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mario Blanco told me that George Bunting had distributed least 7 individual sheets (pressings from the same plant called ‘duplicates’) to 5 herbaria in 3 countries, from the specimen he collected. Of those it’s unclear if any entered cultivation.
Images of the original Herbarium Specimens prepared by George Bunting
– Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana –
It’s worth noting that some entertain the possibility that M. deliciosa var. sierrana is a mature form of Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’ or that Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’ is a unique form of var. sierrana—what is known as a “sport”. Looking at key differences between the plants, like fenestration and leaf shape (including comparing juvenile forms of both), it seems they are distinctly different. Eduardo Goulart comments, “[M. Burle Marx Flame] has different shape, different texture, different growing pattern overall. I simply can’t wrap my mind around as to why people would confuse it with deliciosa sierrana or a deliciosa variation. It’s clearly not.” The bottom line for you though is that this is an ongoing point of discussion and discourse, and ultimately one that requires more data, like genetic analysis and insight into the natural origin of each specimen. Mario Blanco explained, while they look different, M. deliciosa is a highly variable species and the difference we see with these two, may not be distinct enough; therefore, we need to compare mature foliage and especially the inflorescences to be sure.
Hawaiian clone: It seems that many of the M. deliciosa var. sierrana plants distributed in North America came from Tom Piergrossi in Hawaii. Piergrossi’s plant was originally from Balboa Park in San Diego and is believed to have originated from Mexico, but verifiable information on the exact collection site also doesn’t exist. Piergrossi told me that when he acquired the plant it was small and labelled as “Monstera obliqua”, but in 2009 once he grew the plant out at his place in Hawaii, it was clearly not M. obliqua (another case of #itsneverobliqua); he also comments, “the plant is slow to grow…[but] patience is a virtue. They can take over a year to grow and [they] sell out fast”, so while he’s working hard to produce and make this plant available to others, it just takes time for them to grow.
Photo of Tom Piergrossi‘s M. deliciosa var. sierrana
Mario Blanco added more color to this topic and he believes it’s possible that the ‘Hawaiian clone’ in Balboa Park could have been introduced there from Horace Anderson of La Costa Nursery in Leucadia, CA (located a few miles North of San Diego). Anderson was reportedly the first person who recommended to San Diego County that the newly donated park be developed as a botanical garden. And more importantly, from 1945 until his death in 1980, Anderson travelled frequently to Mexico and imported tons of Monstera deliciosa seeds for selling, and introduced several distinctive forms to cultivation. You can read more about this in William Drysdale’s article about M. deliciosa in Aroideana 14: pages 5-6 (1991).”
Interestingly, Horace’s grandson, Eric Anderson, reached out to me on Instagram and told me he thought that it was more likely that the Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana at Balboa Park may have even preceded his grandfather’s time! And that they may have been from cuttings imported when the original conservatory was built, prior to Balboa Park. Horace had told Eric that during World War II the conservatory was overrun by Monstera deliciosa—so badly that that it had to be closed and refurbished! Wiedners Gardens had also received and sold cuttings of those Monstera in the mid 1950s. To this day Eric still imports lots of Monstera deliciosa seedlings every year, but they are mostly var. borsigiana (or what they refer to as the “early splitting form”).
Regardless of it’s unclear history, if this ‘Hawaiian clone’ of Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana did not originate from the Sierra de Juárez mountain range in Mexico, then it may not actually be “var. sierrana.” That said, if the Hawaiian clone isn’t “var. sierrana”, the question remains…who has a “true” var. sierrana, collected from Sierra de Jaurez in Mexico? Because that original plant from Burle Marx’s collection was a Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’, either a sport, different variant or a completely unique species, right? And if new plants have been collected from the Sierra de Juárez area since the Hawaiian clones entered cultivation, then their exact location should be known, and the plants could have be formally classified and documented. Regardless, the Hawaiian clone does visually appear to be very similar to the collected herbarium specimens of Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana and while the history is muddled, there seems to be significant evidence that those plants could lead back to the correct origin of Mexico.
How to tell them apart
What is the visual difference between Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’, deliciosa var. sierrana, and the common Brazil variant?
Now that we all understand there’s a cluster of three plants (possibly four if you believe that the Hawaiian/Balboa Park clone is not from Sierrana), and that they all look similar AND get confused with each other…how can we tell them apart?
A picture says a thousand words, so let’s show rather than tell.
The following photos show the three types:
Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’ (incorrectly, M. dilacerata)
Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’, is the easiest to identify of the three—the leaves distinctly look like a ribcage and lack any significant fenestration (though it can have some holes as the leaves mature). The leaves are also more robust and may feel thicker like cardboard, and the veins are wider when compared to the other two types.
Photos of Monstera ‘Burl Marx Flame’
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Appearance of Monstera ‘Burle Marx Flame’
- Has minimal lobes and sinus, with no “ears” at top of leaf
- Gaps between leaf-cuts exceed the leaf tissue ratio giving it a very distinct thorax-or-rib-cage-like appearance
- Has the smallest leave size compared to the other two forms
- Thicker leaves “like cardboard”
Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana
Leaves of this plant are smaller than a classic Monstera deliciosa, have deeper cuts into the center of the leaf and some fenestration; however, the leaves are not as small or as slender as those of M. Burle Marx Flame.
Photos of Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana
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Appearance of Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana
- Has minimal lobes or no “ears” at top of leaf
- Gaps between the leaf match green leaf tissue
- Overall this plant has larger leaves than Burle Marx Flame, but smaller than the below-mentioned Brazil form
Monstera deliciosa var. brazil or “Brazilian Common Form”
The Brazil variety of deliciosa (not to be confused with “Monstera sp brazil”), has chunkier leaf sections compared to var. sierrana, but it is often sold as “var sierrana.” The primary way of telling the Brazilian common form apart from var. sierrana, is by looking at the sinus and lobes at the top of the leaf; this Common Brazil form of deliciosa, has a deep sinus and high lobes, whereas var sierrana has a shallower sinus and lower lobes. Basically, side by side, the leaves of var Brazil have “bigger ears”, and the rib-like section of the leaves are the most broad.
Photos of Monstera deliciosa var Brazil
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Appearance of Monstera deliciosa var Brazil
- Deep sinus and high lobes (has “ears” at top of leaf)
- Leaf sections are more broad
- Has the largest leaf of the three plants in question
If you’re trying to guess if you have one of these, you likely don’t—unless you paid a hefty price or made a extremely special trade with a very kind collector. Unfortunately, these plants are just extremely rare and with that comes a high price—the highest I’ve ever personally seen attached to a plant.
For the North American market: at the height of the Aroid bubble (in late 2020 to early 2021), the Sierrana variant would cost around $2,000+, Burle Marx Flame sold anywhere from $2,000-$15,000 (depending on the size), and the common Brazilian variant, I only once saw listed for ~$800; in theory the common type should be less than the other two (because it’s more accessible in South America), but the price of any one of these really depends more on the availability and demand where you live.
Note: collector-plant prices tend to be quite volatile so I may remove this section at a later date. My goal isn’t to influence the value of the plants, but simply to be transparent and share knowledge about them.
Care & Culture
I’ve had my Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana ‘Hawaiian clone’ for a little over 6-months and so far it’s as easy as my other Monsteras. For care, I give it moderately-bright light (at an east window with direct sun in the morning and LED light in the afternoon), wet/dry irrigation cycles (with a 4-7 day period of drying between watering), a nitrogen-rich and micro-nutrient focused fertilizer (bloodmeal & rock dust), a chunky but water-retentive potting media (30/30/30 bark, pumice, peat) and…that’s it. I follow the same care for this plant as I care for my other aroids. Others have reported similar perspectives for the ease of care of Monstera Burle Marx Flame and the common Brazilian form—the only notable difference between all of these plants and your standard Monstera deliciosa is that they tend to grow slower.
Last word – my goal is to bring clarity to a confusing topic. If you have more accurate information on this topic, please feel free to contact me on Instagram and let me know where I’ve gone astray.