Send Nodes - Monstera & Misinformation
As of late, there has been an influx of novice plant parents sharing their experiences cultivating plants with the community, and, unfortunately, there are pockets within this group who will share their opinion or (incorrect) understanding of terms or information. I love that people are interested in learning about plants! I also believe that we all can always learn more, regardless of our level of experience and education.
Scientifically, we should all be open to new information and understanding as new facts present. If you are ever unsure about something you've heard, or just don't have reliable resources for information, please consider doing research before spreading around your opinion, what you think you know may not be correct, and it would be a shame if that led to more misinformation in the community.
I have seen plenty of examples of incorrect information, and some of it has actually prompted me to recheck my research resources to make sure I had the right information, however, there are some things I just know to be incorrect. One example was brought to my attention recently, and I was saddened and kind of floored to see it on a blog that I believe has decent traffic. Ophelia B, of Ophelia Plants, has a planty blog called "Ophelia Plants" at easymodelife.com. Not only does Ophelia have a blog, but she also has an Etsy shop with over 300 sales and an Instagram account with about two and a half thousand followers. Her content is, as you could probably guess, plant related. Most of her posts are very cute and she seems perfectly nice! This is not at all an attack of her character or anything like that.
With that in mind, I have to discuss her post "Read this before buying a variegated monstera" that was flagged to me recently. The overall post could be seen as helpful sort of warning call to those novice plant parents interested in splurging on the widely sought after variegated monstera, however, some of her information was just incorrect. Specifically, I was directed to this post when a buyer in one of my plant groups was complaining about a perfectly good monstera cutting not being fit to be sold when they received it. Here is the screenshot that was shared to the group by the seller
If you can't tell, this is a perfectly viable cutting.
The recipient was misinformed about what a node is. We all know that a node is needed for an aroid cutting to be successful. But somehow, this person's understanding of a node is the brown protruding portion shown in the below photo. Lets set the record straight here! That is not a node, it is an aerial root. The aerial root grows from the bumpy portion of the stem that is the node.
Some ways to familiarize yourself with what a node is, is to take a good look at your plants! Nodes will be on the main stem of the plant, it is like a raised line or nodule along the stem that has a visible swelling or physical "bump" to it. Sometimes older plants' older nodes will have slight browning or discoloration around it, as the petioles of older leaves may have withered and been removed from this area. It serves multiple purposes. It is the point that joins the leaf to the stem via the petiole. If you have here a leaf, branch, or new stem emerging, it is coming from the node. always is. If these brown protrusions (aka aerial roots) are found on the plant, they will be emerging from a node also! Although aerial roots can provide a better success rate in rooting cuttings (because essentially... it already has a root) they are not necessary for the cutting to grow, root or be successful.
I was directed by someone in the post to check out Ophelia's blog post to explain how someone claiming to be experienced with houseplants could not know what a node actually is.
I read through the post, some of the information seemed amateur, but overall not incorrect. She also is very adamant about what not to do. While not everything she recommends is 100% true all of the time, I would say that it can still be helpful to err on the side caution and follow several of the things she says if you are newer to plants and not sure how to look for an albino monstera. I like that she took time to experience a green monstera before venturing into the chimeral variegated world, which is what I recommend 100% of the time. (You should make sure that you can grow the less expensive, easier to grow variety of the plant before shelling out $$$ on a delicate specimen. If you can't master a monstera, I wouldn't recommend making the plunge into the variegated world!)
Then, we arrive here:
If you're like me, you just went OMG out loud and did a face palm.
If you didn't, you either need to reread the copy around the screenshots, ooooor perhaps reach out to learn a little more about aroid anatomy! (:
Beneath these completely incorrect node identifications, there is another more ambiguously imprecise section about cuttings.
Again, the incorrect portion of the plant is defined as the node, but we could have expected this. I am posting this as well because her description of a top cutting vs a mid cutting is not 100% accurate. The actual difference between a top cut and a middle cut is a little more nuanced. Additionally, there is another main option: bottom cuttings. You can find the differences in my post here. What I want to discern is this: a mid or bottom cutting do not have a lower chance of success or survival. This is simply not true. A cutting needs a node, and it does not hurt to have an aerial root or other kind of root system that is at any point of maturity but it is not necessary. I also recommend a cutting with a leaf, but it is not necessary for a plant to grow as long as there is a node.
She is not wrong that top cuttings can be easier to grow. That does not mean mid or bottom cuttings have less of a chance of survival. The reason top cuttings are generally more sought after or even priced higher in some instances, is because of how the leaves will grow on these vining plants.
The "topmost" leaf on an aroid like this will have a petiole that (should) have the potential for another leaf to emerge from inside it. You can get a top cutting by making one cut on the stem internode (the portion of the stem between two nodes) on the plant, and removing the top of the stem (and a node!! Make sure you have a node, an actual node). Referred to as top cuttings, this portion of the plant includes the apical (aka terminal) bud of the plant. This is the primary growing point i.e. where the leaf-emerging-from-petiole I referred to earlier is. You can see this growth point as a raised bump along the side of the petiole of the newest leaf.
The biggest reason these cuttings are preferred is that the plant already has this growth point when the newest leaf emerges, regardless of if it is cut or not, a new leaf should be growing at this point. When cut, the growth continues and is generally (but not necessarily always) the fastest a cutting will grow new leaves.
Getting back to Ophelia's post. What bothers me the most about this post is that she has taken the time to get a little experience growing plants and has well formatted platforms with followers that may indicate she is a reliable source for plant care, but after reading this, her credibility went out the window... for me at least. She didn't take time to just check what she knew to make sure it was true before writing a post to "educate" others about it. And now, there are others who have learned the wrong information as fact, from her. It has begun to impact other people (i.e. this seller, probably plenty of others) and I'm not really sure if there is really a good way to combat something like that. I understand, mistakes can be made, we all do it! But full disclosure, I messaged her to just let her know of the misinformation, in hopes she would edit the post. I have not heard back. Several others from my plant group have expressed they have done the same. Either she doesn't think she is wrong, or doesn't care, but it is a problem. The post is from April 2020, and has been misinforming ever since.