The herbaceous flower lantana is a native of the Americas and has become a garden staple. Usually orange with clusters of yellow, this shrub-like perennial can become invasive where not controlled or in frost-free zones. Also found in pinks and reds, it is a sun lover but is very tolerant of a variety of conditions. Lantana is often planted to attract butterflies. Commonly called shrub verbena, or red sage, its oil is aroma-therapeutic and has insecticidal properties.
The corn beetle or maize grain weevil can cause widespread damage to stored corn crops. Lantana camara has been shown to be effective in preventing these insects from destroying grain. Oil distilled from the plant is a recommended insecticide for silo storage to prevent both beetles and their larva from infesting grain. Similarly, the application of the oil mixed with coconut oil can provide protection from the Aedes mosquito, which carries yellow fever and malaria. Methanol and chloroform extracts from lantana showed a high mortality in termite populations. The root knot nematode causes damage to root vegetables and is a threat to the human food supply. The lantana plant can kill nematodes in just a 1 percent concentration of a four-component distillation derived from the plant.
The most promising uses for lantana camara require distilling the oil from the plant. In insecticidal trials, the entire plant has been used: root, bark, flowers and leaves. The plant carries several beneficial compounds, most notably Cameroon oil from the leaves. This is the active pesticide that causes a high mortality rate in the grain weevil. The methanol and chloroform from the flowers results in termite mortality. Four groups of Triterpenes have inhibited the root knot nematode.
Once the Camaroon oil has been pressed from the plant, it can be topically applied to repel the Aedes mosquito much like a tanning oil. Coconut oil is mixed in to create a water-resistant coating on the skin. The leaves of the lantana camara can be crushed and put in with stored grain to reduce weevil populations. The methanol and chloroform distillations are presented as a gas to kill termite populations in much the same way that fumigation is commonly performed. The sesquiterpenes that are effective against the root knot nematode are introduced to soil in a saturating solution, generally mixed with water.
Lantana has toxic properties to Brugia malayi parasites and Acanthocheilonema vitae. The extract appears to sterilize the worms and prevent the spread of the parasites in experimental situations. Biting insects transmit these, and the larvae can cause elephantiasis. Studies are being done to determine the exact methods and amounts of application and long-term topical effects when lantana oils are used against the Aedes mosquito. There is some concern that they adversely effect male reproduction.
Lantana camara is a toxic plant that is poisonous in cattle and wild herbivores. In Florida, several cases of poisoning among children have been reported due to ingestion of lantana flowers, but the victims recovered. In other species, the poisoning results in death, so home distillation is not recommended.