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Texas Invasive Species Institute

Texas Invasive Species Institute


Lantana camara

Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Verbenaceae

Lantana camara

Photographers: Forest and Kim Starr Affiliation: Starr Environmental Source: Bugwood.org Copyright: (CC BY 3.0)


Lantana camara is quite variable in appearance, shade tolerance and toxicity to livestock because of different cultivars. Overall, lantana is a perennial shrub that has several stems growing from its base. It may grow individually or in thickets and can reach heights of 10 feet. Stems on plants in the United States usually do not have spines; but the varieties in Hawaii do. The stiff leaves are oval and broadly lance-shaped and can be yellow-green to green in color. They are opposite on the stem and have serrated edges and feel rough to the touch because the leaves are covered in small rough hairs. The leaves are aromatic, when crushed. The flowers are compact, flat-topped flower heads and vary in coloration from yellow to orange to red or from white to pink to lavender. The flowers are tubular, 4-petaled and occur nearly all year long, and the central flowers and outer flowers in the clusters are different colors. The berries resemble blackberries when mature but are green when immature and each fruit contains 1-2 seeds.

Ecological Threat

Lantana camara easily invades disturbed ecosystems and often forms in dense thickets. It can quickly dominate the understory in forests and suppress the growth of native plants, turning the forest communities into shrub-lands.  In addition to forests, Lantana camara can also become the dominant understory shrub in orchards and plantations. It has become a serious economic pest in the citrus groves of Florida because it reduces vigor and productivity of the crops. The leaves and unripen fruit are poisonous. It can cause liver failure or even death in livestock animals such as cattle, sheep, goats or horses, and also in wild animals. The unripe fruit can also be dangerous to children, and in home garden setting children have been poisoned by eating the unripe fruit.


Reproduction for Lantana camara is both sexual and vegetatively. One plant produces about 12,000 fruit and birds and other animals eat the fruit and allow for long-distance dispersal of the seeds. Fruit that is not cosumed becomes dry and stays on the shrub for a whilte. Germination of seeds occurs after it has passed through an animal’s digestive tract. Given proper conditions, germination can happen year round. Seedlings need high light conditions and will not grow beneath a parent bush. The plants quickly regenerate from the base after stems are damaged and large plants can survive fires and mowing. Stems will root when they come in contact with soil and new plants can be spread by cuttings.


In the 1700s lantana was a popular South American ornamental in Europe, which lead to many cultivars through the 1800s and 1900s. There are no records that mark specifically when this shrub entered the United States but it was taken to Hawaii in 1858 and covered all islands by 1871. Plants are still sold in nurseries throughout the United States.

Native Origin

West Indies and Columbia and Venezuela

Current Location

U.S. Habitat: Because of so many lantana varieties, this shrub has a broad tolerance for environmental factors; and can be present in forests, riparian zones, pastures and citrus groves.


U.S. Present: AL, AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TX, and UT


The endangered pineland lantana, is a native to Florida and resembles the invasive lantana. However, it is distinguished from the invasive lantana by the strictly, tapered leaf base and only yellow flowers.


The best prevention is not to purchase or plant lantanas at home and try to have native plants in your home garden. However, if it is present the most effective management plan for this persistent shrub is an integrated plan including physical and chemical strategies. Physical methods can be either cutting off the flowers or removing the entire plant. Small plants can be hand-pulled and for larger plants mowing reduces the biomass which in turn reduces the amount of chemicals needed.

Herbicides work best after the plants are cut and if the chemicals are applied directly to the stump. However, regrowth can be treated and should be sprayed before it is 5 feet tall. Foliar applications are not every effective because it fails to inhibit re-growth. In Hawaii, over 20 insects were introduced to control lantanas on the islands. Few were found to only be partially successful. However, the controls became pests of all lantanas and not just the wild strains. There is not one biological control that can fully control lantanas and this could be in part to the great genetic diversity of this shrub species. This also means that more biological control research has to be performed and species that work in another hemisphere may not work in the United States.


Broughton, S. 2000. Review and evaluation of lantana biocontrol programs. Biological Control, 17(3), 272-286.

Kurdila, J. 1988. Introduction of Exotic Species into the United States: There Goes the Neighborhood, The. BC Envtl. Aff. L. Rev., 16, 95.

Reinert, J. A., George, S. W., Mackay, W. A., & Campos, C. 2010. Resistance Among Lantana Cultivars to the Lantana Stick Caterpillar, Neogalea sunia (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Southwestern Entomologist, 35(1), 51-58.

Sharma, G. P., Raghubanshi, A. S., & Singh, J. S. 2005. Lantana invasion: an overview. Weed Biology and Management, 5(4), 157-165.

Woodward, Susan L., and Joyce Ann. Quinn. 2011. Lantana. Encyclopedia of Invasive Species: From Africanized Honey Bees to Zebra Mussels. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood. 518-21. Print. 

Internet Sources





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