lantana close up

Lantana from my collection.

Information: Lantana camara occurs naturally in Mexico, the Caribbean and tropical and subtropical Central and South America. It is considered a weed in nearly 50 countries. Lantana spreads in two ways. Layering is a form of vegetative reproduction where stems send roots into the soil, allowing it to quickly form very dense stands and spread short distances. Also, birds and other animals such as foxes consume and pass the seed in their droppings, potentially spreading it over quite large distances. The germination rate of fresh seed is generally low, but improves after being digested.

Butterflies, bees and other insects are attracted by the nectar and pollinate lantana flowers. About half of the flowers produce seeds, typically 1-20 seeds on each flower head. Mature plants can produce up to 12,000 seeds every year. Seeds are thought to remain viable for several years under natural conditions.

Lantana is allelopathic and can release chemicals into the surrounding soil which prevent germination and competition from some other plant species.

 

Lantana can grow in high-rainfall areas with tropical, subtropical and temperate climates. It does not tolerate salty or dry soils, waterlogging or low temperatures (<5ºC). It thrives on rich, organic soils but also grows on well-drained clay and basalt soils. Sandy soils tend to dry out too rapidly for lantana unless soil moisture is continually replenished. Lantana invades disturbed sites, especially open sunny areas, such as roadsides, cultivated pastures and fencelines. From there it can invade the edges of forests, but it does not fare as well under a heavy canopy as it is not very shade tolerant.

 

Another species of lantana is a popular ornamental that is considered a weed when present in natural ecosystems. Creeping lantana (Lantana montevidensis) occurs in coastal areas.

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