Why Does The Monstera Leaf Have Holes?

monstera leaf
Maybe you were just introduced to a monstera, recently purchased a monstera, got a monstera tattoo or are a curious cucumber when it comes to plants, whatever it was, it got you asking yourself….why does this swiss cheese plant have holes in its  leaves? Seems a bit counterintuitive, right? 
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Well, this adaptation actually helps the monstera greatly in its natural habitat! As a semi-epiphytic plant, the monstera deliciosa naturally grows up trees, underneath the canopy, in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. This may give you a hint as to why the monstera has holes in its leaves, but truth be told, we are still not 100% certain why monsteras have holes in their leaves, we only have hypotheses and some studies to go off of. But wait!! Monstera deliciosa are not the only ones though! An albino monstera, mini monsteras and monstera adansonii all have this unique nature to their leaves!
There is not one concrete reason that monsteras have holes in their leaves, so lets go over the top 3 hypothesis on why they generate their holes! And while we're on this topic we might as well state that the scientific name for the holes is fenestrations, so if you want to sound smart next time you're talking about your monstera, you can bust that word out.


The most widely accepted reason for the holes in the monstera leaf is due to the lack of sunlight underneath the rainforest canopy. A study by Christopher Muir of Indiana University on this phenomenon has given us some of this evidence. He talks about the holes of the leaf giving the plant a greater spread to account for the ever-changing, unpredictable winds, which produce sun-flecks coming from the top of the canopy, through the trees. The increased spread of the leaf gives a higher probability of catching the sun-flecks and harnessing their energy. The holes also allow for the leaves below it to capture more sunlight as well, leading to a uniformly full plant!


Another reason that the holes may be there is to reduce the impact that heavy hurricane winds have on the leaves, preventing rips and tears and allowing the wind to safely pass through the plant. The tropical bird of paradise, and some pothos, also do this, but not every tropical plant does, so it is hard to tell if this is the main reason for the holes in its leaves because wouldn't all tropical plants want to resist the harsh hurricane winds?


The last reason is kind of 2 in 1, but it has to do with one crucial part to their environment - RAIN. Living in a tropical rainforest, the plants that call it home will often get hit by strong rains which can tear their leaves, just like the winds! To prevent this from happening, holes are developed, allowing rain to pass right through! This can allow for increased drainage on the leaf itself as its not getting pounded by water with only one way (off the edges) for the water to drain. 
The other rain-related reason that the holes could be there is to allow the rain a direct way towards their roots. If the leaves were completely uniform, then the rain would drip off and fall somewhere further away from the roots most likely on the forest floor. Since monstera plants are epiphytic (growing up trees) they want the rain to reach the tree, where their roots are, not the forest floor. The holes allow the rain to pass right through and hit the tree, where their roots are ready to soak it all up. 

And Now It's Showtime!!!



Do you agree with these hypotheses? Why do you think the monstera leaf has holes?
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