Native to: Central and South America, due to the extent to which it has been cultivated and planted, its native range is unclear and potentially includes the West Indies.
Lantana has been widely cultivated and promoted as an ornamental since the early 1800s. It is established throughout the Neotropics and present on all continents expect Antartica. Hundreds of cultivars and hybrids exist, some of which are marketed as ‘safe’ sterile varieties and it continues to be sold as an ornamental plant in garden centers and nurseries throughout the U.S. There is a lot of confusion regarding the availabilitiy of native lantana species in Florida nurseries which is addressed in the article The Lantana Mess by Roger Hammer. Additionally, the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas uses the Infraspecific Taxon Protocol to assess hybrids for potential invasiveness, the results of which can be found here.
Habit: medium-sized perennial aromatic shrub, 5-17 ft tall, with quadrangular stems, sometimes having prickles. Posture may be sub-erect, scrambling, or occasionally clambering. May be multi-stemmed.
Leaves: ovate in shape, oppositely arranged, commonly 6 inches long and 2 ½ inches wide. To the touch, they feel like fine sandpaper or a cat’s tongue. Leaf blades are serrate and have an aroma when crushed or rubbed.
Flowers: clustered at the tip of stems. Small, multicolored, and change color over time from white to pink or lavender, or yellow to orange or red. Typically the more mature flowers are darker in color (lavender and red).
Fruit: round, fleshy, 2 seeded drupes, starting green and ripening into a deep purple/black.
Distribution in Florida: documented in 60 counties.
Spread easily via birds and tolerant of a wide range of conditions, Lantana has invaded agricultural land and many natural areas from wetlands, dunes, to forests. In livestock pasture it can result in dramatic losses in yields and productivity. In natural areas it can form dense thickets, crowding out native vegetation and reducing biodiversity. It can also hybridize with native lantana species. All parts of this plant are toxic and have impacted livestock, pets, children.
Remove plant from home landscapes and do not purchase from garden centers.
Preventing seed production by removing flower heads prior to seed set will greatly reduce the number of seeds released into the seed bank, as well as reduces the number of seeds available for spread by birds or other animals.
Dozing/mowing can reduce dense infestations. These tactics can make spot treatments with chemicals more economically effective. For mechanical methods alone to be effective, the entire root system must be removed.
Over 20 biocontrol agents have been released to control lantana in Hawaii with varying results. The most effective are the defoliating caterpillar Hypena strigata; the seed-destroying fly Ophiomyia lantanae, and the lace bug Teleonemia scrupulosa. However, due to popularity of this species in the ornamental industry, the release of biological control agents has not been feasible.
Glyphosate can be effective as a foliar spray, but high rates are required and will commonly result in significant grass damage around the plant. Fluroxypyr (CleanWave) will provide acceptable control if applied twice (a fall application followed by a spring application). More detailed integrated management recommendations can be found in the UF IFAS EDIS publication Control of Lantana in Pastures.