In this article we’re going to cover a group of special Monsteras that have a complex history and somewhat confusing taxonomy; this includes “Monstera dilacerata” (the wrong name), Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’, Monstera Sierrana (which should technically be written, Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana) and another more common Brazilian variant of M. deliciosa that sometimes gets confused with var. sierrana. If that was confusing to read, fear not, we’ll clear it up, cover examples of each, and touch on care at the end (click that link if you just want tips on how to grow them). 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 misidentified.
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 surpass my own—I just like growing plants and wanted to accurately understand the different types and make the topic less confusing. Mario 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.
So let’s get started…
It’s Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’, not Monstera dilacerata
In the past people often called what is now known as Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’, “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 previously had been classified) [Aroideana]. That means the name ‘Monstera dilacerata’ is a synonym for Epipremnum pinnatum and cannot be “this other plant” that we now call, Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’!
Photo: Monstera Burle Marx Flame
– 16 months growth from a single node cutting –
At the time of this article’s publication in mid 2021, the “not-dilacerata” Monstera was unclassified but in 2022 it was given a formal cultivar name, Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’—named after Roberto Burle Marx, the renowned plant collector and landscape architect who owned the original specimen. Burle Marx didn’t keep detailed notes on the origin of that plant (or others in his collection), so no one knows exactly where it was collected from and -so far- it is the only specimen in cultivation. This means every Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’ grown by collectors today is a cutting/clone of Burle Marx’s original plant. Fun tidbit of info: in late 2022 Acta Botanica self-pollinated their BM Flame and managed to get just one single seed; it may not be viable, but if it is, it could mean a future of seed-grown plants (assuming a back-cross on to the parent plant produces more seeds and overcomes the self-pollination barrier). I’ve gotten off topic though…
It is possible Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’ could end up with a species designation in the future (and end up with a new species name) if wild specimens are found in nature, formally classified and registered by taxonomists.
Image of the plant from Burle Marx’s collection
– photo from Aroideana (1981) –
Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’ (often written incorrectly as M. dilacerata and/or Monstera sp. brazil)
It’s Monstera ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’ not ‘sp. brazil’
For a time, some referred to what is now known as M. ‘Burle Marx’s Flame’, as “Monstera sp. brazil” under the misconception that was native to Brazil. However, Monstera species from the section Tornelia (like deliciosa and the variants within) are known to be native exclusively to Central America. They have been introduced to South America and are now invasive in areas like Brazil, and while they can now be found growing wild there—they’re not naturally endemic to Brazil. People have collected plants from these areas and assumed they are native, but they are not. This is why “sp. brazil” shouldn’t be applied. You can dive into details about the section Tornelia of the Monstera genus, in Aroideana Vol. 43.
Monstera Sierrana (or properly as M. deliciosa var. sierrana)
This may be a bit pedantic, but the name “Monstera Sierrana”, isn’t technically accurate because when written like that, it implies it is a hybrid, cultivar or species (which changes 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 tend to incorrectly shorthand it to Monstera Sierrana. It’s important to note, there is a possibility (like M. Burle Marx’s Flame) that 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 explained 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’s Flame’ or that Monstera ‘Burle’s 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 adds, “[M. Burle Marx’s 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.” From my own experience growing both Burle Marx’s Flame and var. sierrana, I agree with Eduardo—the leaves are noticeably different from each other, even in their juvenile state (with young leaves of BM Flame being slender compared to the wider juvenile leaves of var. sierrana).
The most important takeaway, regardless of speculation: 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’s 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 (sometimes listed incorrectly as 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. In its juvenile leaf form, the leaves are very slender and are the easiest to identify of the three.
Photos of Monstera ‘Burl Marx Flame’
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
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”
- Juvenile leaves are slender compared to other deliciosas.
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
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
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 common variety of deliciosa, 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. Side by side the leaves of var Brazil have “bigger ears”, and the rib-like section of the leaves are the most broad.
I have also seen an adjacent variety coming out of Indonesia that looks like the Brazil Common Form deliciosa, but has larger holes (fenestrations) near the mid rib. This variant is quite striking but many of the other “Brazilian common forms” do not have holes as big, so if you’re looking for this “big hole” type, be diligent and check exactly which type your vendor is offering.
Photos of Monstera deliciosa var Brazil
View this post on Instagram
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
At the height of the Aroid bubble (in late 2020 to early 2021), the Sierrana variant cost upwards of $2,000+ USD; 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 early 2023, I had seen single node cuttings of BM Flame for as low as $500–1,000USD, but it varies by location and seller. It’s hard to estimate the price trend in the future because of so many factors.
Care & Culture Tips: How to Grow Monstera Burle Marx Flame and Sierrana:
I have all three types of Monstera deliciosa covered in this post. I’ve had my Monstera deliciosa var. sierrana ‘Hawaiian clone’ for the longest (over two years) and have had my BM Flame for just over a year. Considering the price tag attached to the plants, they’re not hard to grow but they are a bit slower compared to more common Monstera varieties. With bright light they grow a bit faster—I get a new leaf about every 5-6 weeks.
Here are some other important care tips:
- Soil: not too compact or peat heavy. Mine is in a standard Aroid “jungle” mix (equal parts bark, peat, and pumice) in the upper half of the pot, with a lower-half of all LECA. The potting mix is finished with a top dressing of pure sphagnum moss, which creates a moisture barrier near newly emerging roots, while the LECA and chunky media help maintain ample airflow deeper in the pot.
- Light: bright (compared to most aroids). Minimum: 10% sunlight (1,000 footcandles), up to a daily max of ~35% sun for a few hours (3,500 footcandles). Mine are at an East-facing window with direct sun in the morning and they get supplemental LED light in the afternoon; the exact light readings I just mentioned are from my grow area.
- Fert: weakly weekly. I use MSU Orchid fertilizer; plus quarterly feeds of organic fertilizer which includes rockdust for minerals and bloodmeal for nitrogen, at a very small dose of 1/8 tsp per pot.
- pH: avoid acidity or anything that creates acetic acid (vinegar) as a result of fermentation/decay; in other words, if you use an organic media like sphagnum or peat, repot annually or at first sign of root rot. I have seen many accounts of root rot if people grew their BM Flame too acidic—especially in semihydro.
- Calcium & water quality: tap water is acceptable (mine is 7.9pH & 250ppm CaCO3 – which is alkaline). Avoid water that’s high in sodium or “softened water.” Monstera deliciosa come from mountainous areas that have high amounts of calcium carbonate in the earth. So, you might find calcium and slight alkalinity is important for robust long term growth.
- Room Humidity is not an issue. Mine is grown at 35–45% rH most days.
- Excessive humidity (75%+) seems to increase risk of rot, mold, or leaf issues.
Here’s a quick video of my different deliciosas
View this post on Instagram
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.