Lantana camara's description
Lantana camara is a species of flowering plant within the verbena family, Verbenaceae, that is native to the American tropics. Lantana camara, often planted to embellish gardens, has spread from its native Central and South America to around more thatn 50 different countries, where it has become an invasive species. It spread from the Americas into the rest of the world when it was brought back to Europe by Dutch explorers and cultivated widely, soon spreading into Asia and Oceania, where it established itself as a notorious weed. Lantana camara will often outcompete other more desirable species, leading to a reduction in biodiversity. It can also cause problems if it invades agricultural areas as a result of its toxicity to livestock as well as its ability to form dense thickets which if left unchecked can greatly reduce the productivity of farm land.
A much-branched, upright (erect), arching or scrambling shrub that usually grows 2-4 m tall and forms dense thickets. It can occasionally grow like a vine (as a scandent shrub) due to its patterns of short branches and if there is support by other vegetation, in which case it can reach up to 15 m in height. The young stems are usually green and square-shaped (quadrangular) in cross-section. They are rough to the touch, often armed with short prickles, and can be hairy. As they mature the stems become rounded and turn grey or brown in colour. In some wild varieties the stems are armed with small or large spines, in others they are smooth. The leaves are simple and oppositely arranged along the stem. They have leaf stalks (petioles) that are 5-30 mm long and a crenate or serrated (toothed) margin. The leaf blades are mostly egg-shaped in outline with broad end at base (ovate) and are 2-12 x 1.5-7 cm in size. The texture of the leaf is quite rough (scabrous), however, the underside can be softly hairy. Its dense flower clusters consist of numerous small tubular flowers (9-14 mm long and 4-10 mm across). These flower clusters are borne on stalks originating in the leaf forks. The flowers can be a wide variety of colours (white, cream, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and are usually made up of three circles of florets - each one commonly of a different colour (except in some cultivated varieties bred to have single colours) . There are over 100 different combinations of flower colours in wild varieties. The fleshy fruit is glossy in appearance and black, purplish-black or bluish-black when mature, 3-6 mm in diameter containing 1-2 seeds (1.5 mm long). Flowering and fruiting throughout the year with a peak during the first two months of the rainy season.