Pop Quiz!

Test your knowledge on the flora and fauna growing along UGACR campus trails and throughout the Monteverde Cloud Forest here in Costa Rica. You never know when a trivia night will call for tropical ecology facts…

True or False?

These three different leaves are, as a matter of fact, the same plant:

TRUE! The monstera vine, part of the Araceae family, has three pretty dramatic costume changes during its lifespan.

In stage one, the vine begins its ascent at the base of a tree, climbing in an organized shingle-like fashion. The leaves form a slightly overlapping, dark green collage, like lily pads that have been glued to the trunk of a tree.

In the second stage, the leaves, having developed a more durable leaf structure, detach from the trunk. However, they continue scaling their host tree via a connective vine. Oval-shaped gaps emerge on either side of the primary vein, dubbing this monstera vine the “Swiss cheese” plant. Holes in the plant are presumed to serve a purpose – if not more than one. Some theories claim that the openings:

  • allow light to penetrate to the bottom-most leaves, providing photosynthesis for all leaves
  • allow a similar rain-penetration technique to reach the root system
  • provide wind resistance as leaves climb higher along their host
  • fool insects into thinking its leaves have already been munched on

Each hole eventually produces a full tear from the primary vein to the outer edge of the leaf. After numerous gaps have reached a leaf’s end, long shreds remain and the leaf resembles a palm. The monstera plant has now reached not only a high spot in the canopy, but also its third stage.

Blog contribution by Alex Fylypovych, UGA Costa Rica Photojournalism Intern

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