Lantana camara is a deciduous perennial shrub that likes warm dry climates. Gardeners love it for the small clusters of color-changing flowers, unique square-shaped flower buds and abundant colored berries. Birds like to eat and spread the berries, which has caused problems in some states where it has replaced native plants.
Lantana camara is native to the southernmost tip of Texas, Mexico to Central America. It has been spread across the southern United States in Florida, Georgia, California, and Hawaii. It often invades previously disturbed areas, such as fields and roadsides, which receive full sun.
Lantana camara is a low shrub or vine-producing ground cover with slender green stems and small 6-inch-long leaves appearing in pairs opposite of each other. It grows to a height of 6 feet. The leaves are rough textured, similar to sand paper. They are oval in shape and slightly pointed. The flowers grow from the tips of the stems in small bunches.
The flowers start off in light-colored shades of white or yellow, then change to pink and lavender or orange and red as they mature. After pollination, the flowers produce tiny green berries that ripen to purple, then to black.
Lantana camara like full sun with well-draining fertile to semi-fertile soil. It is tolerant of dry conditions and can tolerate some salt. Avoid planting Lantana camara in areas where it may be grazed by animals due to the toxicity of the leaves which may cause liver damage or other severe problems. It is suitable for USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11.
Lantana camara can be used in a landscape for borders and hedges. It is commonly sold as in garden and nursery centers throughout it growing range.
It has some known medical uses. Its bark can be used as an astringent in lotions used for leprous skin ulcers. The leaves can be boiled and used to treat skin pain and swelling. Recent experiments show that it has the potential to lower blood pressure.
Lantana camara is considered an invasive weed in many areas outside of its native range. It has become a problem in California, Hawaii and Florida where it invades grazing land and poisons cattle. Large infestations can be eradicated by spraying it with chemical herbicides or by burning. Small infestations can be removed by hand by pulling the entire plant including the roots.