Lantana camara, known as Lantana, is a species of
flowering shrub belonging to the verbena family Verbenaceae, that is
native to Mexico,
Central America, the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas, Colombia,
and Venezuela. It has
been introduced to many
other parts of the world as an ornamental plant where in many cases is has become an invasive species in
particular in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
Lantana camara is poisonous to livestock and children have been known
to die after eating unripe berries.
Lantana camara is a
thicket forming shrubs which were introduced into South Africa as
ornamental plants but which have become a serious invasive weed.
Lantana is one of the
worst weeds in the world which is still widening its range. It is probably the most widespread invasive plant
in Africa. One of the reasons that lantana camara is able to colonise
areas easily is because it releases chemicals into the soil that can prevent the germination and growth of
other plant species.
Lantana camara has been
declared a Category 1 invasive weed in South
In terms of the
Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (No 43 of 1983) land occupiers and owners are legally obliged to
control Lantana camara. Lantana camara comprises a complex of vigorous, prolific, man-made hybrids, bred in
Europe from unrecorded parents from Central and South America, and
spread all over the world as a hardy, ornamental shrub, with multi-coloured flowers. Dispersed by
fruit-eating birds, it establishes along fence lines and under trees, where it out-competes indigenous plants
and forms impenetrable, prickly thickets that reduce biodiversity and land
The best form of
control is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations
when they are small to prevent them from establishing.
measures for lantana are expensive and ineffective and it has therefore been targeted since 1961 for
biological control. A total of 9 lantana biocontrol agents and 3 associated insects were established on
lantana in South Africa before 1997, however most agents persist at low
densities and only occasionally impact plant populations. The damage is caused by the developing larva or
nymph. Some of these agents undergo sporadic, localized outbreaks that defoliate whole stands of lantana, but
the plant recovers completely, and continues to densify and spread. Current South African research into
biological control of lantana focuses on developing new, host-specific, biocontrol agents to supplement the
activity of the agents established earlier. The lantana biocontrol agents established in South Africa are generally widespread but very sparse, reaching only about 10% of
maximum abundance. The introduction of the lantana herringbone leaf miner, Ophiomyia camarae
has significantly improved biocontrol of lantana along the hot and humid coast of KwaZulu-Natal, but it is sparse inland, and cannot over winter on the
The lantana biocontrol
agents currently established are simply unable to stop the weed spreading. To control lantana, one has to
resort to very thorough and persistent mechanical plus chemical treatment. Lantana biocontrol is nevertheless
of value, because it reduces the rate of growth and reproduction of the weed, which reduces the frequency and
cost of applying other control measures.
It is extremely
difficult to kill lantana, because it comprises a variety of vigorous, prolific, bird-dispersed, polyploid
hybrids (with extra sets of genes) that are resistant to drought, frost, fire, insects, pathogens, browsing
and herbicides – it dies back, but the parent plant coppices, seeds germinate (better in the sun) and the
infestation becomes denser. Quick and easy treatments are a waste of time and money. Getting rid of lantana
requires a very thorough and persistent approach.
Clearing: The best form of
eradication is to cut the plant down and remove the roots. Where this is not possible cut the lantana plant
down to the ground, using a heavy duty brush cutter, bush knife, loppers or a pruning saw, to remove the
nutrient reserves. Immediately after cutting paint the surface of the freshly cut stumps with a suitable
herbicide, imazapyr (Chopper) is the most cost effective herbicide treatment for initial control dilute
according to instructions on the label. Preferably cut and treat when the plants are actively growing during
the summer months, but they may also be done during winter when using imazapyr which has longer persistence
where breeding birds may be disturbed. Reasonable success can be achieved using a 3 % mixture of Glyphosate
and water as well as a 1.5% mixture of triclopyr and diesel
Treatment: This is always
absolutely essential. Hand-pull or Spot-spray all lantana re-growth as a full cover spray over the leaves
when it is 0,5-1,0 m tall, using a herbicide containing the active ingredient glyphosate (Roundup). Avoid
spraying non-target plants such as indigenous plants and crops.
Maintenance: Check for re-growth on
an annual basis the best time of year being April- May when most birds have finished breeding and when the
plants are in flower and are easy to locate.
The many different
Lantana camara cultivars found growing in South Africa show a variable
response to herbicides.