Q. I love lantana camara. It reduces my weed population and spreads over large areas. But it is so aggressive that I can’t control it to the extent I would like to. Thoughts?
Answer: I’m not sure what you consider a large area, but lantana does reach a width of 3 to 4 feet. If you have the noninvasive variety, you may need to prune it to contain it in the area you want it. If you have the invasive variety, you may want to dig it up and dispose of it. To determine which variety you have, you can view the University of Florida flash card at http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/ education/resources/flash cards/lancam.pdf, which contains a photo and information.
A species of lantana camara is an invasive plant and one of the top 10 most troublesome plants in Florida. Although lantana camara is still being sold as an ornamental, commercial varieties are noninvasive and sterile. Invasive plants are harmful to the environment because they impact ecology, displace native plants and wildlife, and change natural water flow and fire patterns.
There are sterile varieties of lantana camara. A sterile female plant produces seeds, but very few are viable. A sterile male plant means that 10 percent or less of the pollen is viable. Sterile hybrids of lantana camara include Gold Mound, New Gold, Gold Rush and Banana Yellow.
There are also native substitutes and non-native, non-invasive substitutes available. For example, lantana montevidensis, trailing lantana, is a non-native, non-invasive alternative for lantana camara.
For more than 10 years, the University of Florida has been working to identify non-invasive alternatives for invasive plants. An online publication, “Alternatives to Invasive Plants Commonly Found in South Florida Landscapes,” by Gary W. Knox, Sandra B. Wilson, Zhanao Deng and Rosanna Freyre, is available at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ pdffiles/EP/EP48300.pdf. This article and its three-page table provide alternatives to invasives that are similar in size, habit, texture and flower color. These alternatives are significantly more Florida-friendly.
Note that lantana camara leaves are poisonous, and the green, unripe berries can be fatal to humans if eaten. The ripe berries are a food source for birds.
Also, view the UF/IFAS Extension Leon County article “Choose the Right Lantana for Your Landscape” at http:// leon.ifas.ufl.edu/News_ Columns/2004/081504.pdf and the UF publication “UF-T3 and UF-T-4: Two Sterile Lantana Camara Varieties,” by Zhanao Deng, David M. Czarnecki II, Sandra B. Wilson, Gary W. Knox and Rosanna Freyre at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep463.
Another UF article worth reading is “The Lantana Mess: A Critical Look at the Genus in Florida,” by Roger L. Hammer, at http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/misc/ pdfs/TheLantanaMess.pdf. Information contained in this Q&A was adapted from the above publications. If it’s easier for you to email me for the live links, please feel free to do that.
Lynn Barber is the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods agent at Hillsborough Extension. Reach her at BarberL@hillsboroughcounty.org.