Lantana camara, Photo: Augusta Stylianou, Artist
Lantana camara L.
Lantana camara, Photo: Michael Lahanas
* Species Plantarum 2:627. 1753
Lantana camara, also known as Spanish Flag or West Indian Lantana, is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family, Verbenaceae, that is native to the American tropics. Its native range includes Mexico, Central America, the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas, Colombia, and Venezuela. It is believed to be indigenous to the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in the United States. Lantana camara has been introduced into other parts of the world as an ornamental plant and is considered an invasive species in many tropical areas.
It is sometimes known as "Red (Yellow, Wild) Sage", despite its classification in a separate family to sage (Lamiaceae), and a different order to sagebrush (Asterales).
Lantana camara has become naturalized in tropical and warm regions worldwide. In the Kenyan highlands it grows in many areas that receive even minimal amounts of rainfall. It can be seen in the wild and along footpaths, deserted fields, and farms. West Indian Lantana has been naturalized in the United States, particularly in the Atlantic coastal plains, from Florida to Georgia, where the climate is close to its native climate, with high heat and humidity.
L. camara is an invasive species and has covered large areas in India, Australia and much of Africa. It colonizes new areas when its seeds are dispersed by birds. Once it reaches an area, L. camara spreads quickly. It coppices so well, that efforts to eradicate it have completely failed. It is resistant to fire, and quickly grows in and colonizes burnt areas. It has become a serious obstacle to the natural regeneration of important native species including the Shala Tree (Shorea robusta) in Southeast Asia, as well as plants in 22 other countries. In greenhouses, L. camara is notorious for attracting whitefly.
While considered a pest in Australia, it shelters several native marsupial species from predators, and offers a habitat for the vulnerable Exoneura native bee, which nests in the hollow stems of the plant.
L. camara has been reported to make animals ill after ingestion. The pentacyclic triterpenoids its foliage contains cause hepatotoxicity and photosensitivity in grazing animals such as sheep, goats, bovines, and horses. Livestock foraging on the plant has led to widespread losses in the United States, South Africa, India, Mexico, and Australia. The berries are edible when ripe though like many fruit are mildly poisonous to humans and livestock if eaten while still green. L. camara has been listed as a Category One "Invasive Toxic Species" in Florida by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, and has become a problem in Texas and Hawaii.
Some communities have found alternate uses for West Indian Lantana, as it is difficult to eradicate. Some household furniture, such as tables and chairs are made from the stalks, or the small branches are bundled together to make brooms.
As an ornamental
West Indian Lantana has become popular in gardens for its hardy nature. It is not affected by pests or disease, has low water requirements, and is tolerant of extreme heat. It is a favorite species of butterflies, and used in butterfly gardens in the United States. Wild species may have short, hooked prickles. Lantana cultivars favored as ornamentals tend to have small herbaceous stems.
1. ^ a b "Lantana camara L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2007-05-29. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?310628. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
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