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.
Lantana camara's facts
This plant is known as invasive species
Many weedy and non-weedy cultivars of this species are grown as ornamentals and as hedges.
It is known in some countries that the stems i used to make artisanal products such as carrying cages for chickens and other items that required bendable stems for construction.
Toxic to livestock
The toxicity of L. camara to humans is undetermined, with several studies suggesting that ingesting berries can be toxic to humans, such as a study by O P Sharma which states "Green unripe fruits of the plant are toxic to humans". However other studies have found evidence which suggests that ingestion of L. camara fruit poses no risk to humans and are in fact edible when ripe.
Lantana camara's Behavior & Ecology
Widely naturalised in the tropics and subtropics.
Lantana camara's Reproduction
This plant reproduces by seeds, which are readily dispersed by birds and other animals that eat the fruit. Existing colonies may also spread laterally via the production of suckers or when branches take root after coming into contact with the soil (by layering). Stem fragments or pieces of the rootstock (crown) can also give rise to new plants after dumped in garden waste.
Lantana camara's Relationship with Humans
Lantana camara stalks have been used in the construction of furniture, such as chairs and tables, however, the main uses have historically been medicinal and ornamental. Studies conducted in India have found that Lantana leaves can display antimicrobial, fungicidal and insecticidal properties. The leaf juice is used as an insect repellent.
Lantana camara has been grown specifically for use as an ornamental plant since Dutch explorers first brought it to Europe from the New World. Its ability to last for a relatively long time without water and that it does not have many pests or diseases which affect it have contributed to it becoming a common ornamental plant. Lantana camara also attracts butterflies and birds and so is frequently used in Florida's butterfly gardens.