Lantana camara

Lantana camara


NAME: Lantana camara

FAMILY: Verbenaceae

COMMON NAME: Bird brandy, Cherry pie, Tick berry, Lantana


INVASIVE STATUS IN SOUTH AFRICA: CARA 2002 – Category 1, NEMBA – Category 1b

ORIGIN: Central and South America

DESCRIPTION:  A much-branched, upright arching or scrambling shrub  that usually grows 2-4 m tall and forms dense thickets. It can occasionally grow like a vine  due to its patterns of  short branches and if there is support by other vegetation, in which case it can reach up to 15 m in height. Its dense flower clusters consist of numerous small  flowers. These flower clusters are borne on stalks originating in the leaf forks. The flowers can be a wide variety of colours (white, cream, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and are usually made up of three circles of florets  – each one commonly of a different colour (except in some cultivated varieties bred to have single colours) . There are over 100 different combinations of flower colours in wild varieties. The fleshy fruit is glossy in appearance and black, purplish-black or bluish-black when mature. Flowering and fruiting throughout the year with a peak during the first two months of the rainy season.

This plant  reproduces by seeds, which are readily dispersed by birds and other animals (e.g. rodents) that eat the fruit. Existing colonies may also spread laterally via the production of suckers  or when branches take root after coming into contact with the soil. Stem fragments or pieces of the rootstock can also give rise to new plants after being moved by machinery or dumped in garden waste


Lantana camara
Lantana camara

PROBLEM:  It poses a huge threat in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West where it competes with and replaces indigenous species. Allelopathic suppression of indigenous species interrupts regeneration processes and reduces biodiversity of natural ecosystems. Dense stands in plantations obstruct access and utilization. Poisonous to humans and animals and responsible for livestock mortalities amounting to millions of Rands every year in South Africa. Reduces the grazing potential of the land.

Occurs in all Knysna suburbs, along roads and open spaces.

CONTROL:  A total of 9 lantana biocontrol agents and 3 associated insects were established on lantana in South Africa before 1997 (listed below). 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.

Status of lantana biocontrol agents and associated insects established on lantana in South Africa before 1997:

  • Aristaea onychota, a leaf-mining moth, indigenous to Africa – Negligible impact
  • Calycomyza lantanae, a leaf-mining fly – Minor impact
  • Epinotia lantana, a flower-mining moth – Minor impact
  • Hypena laceratalis, a leaf-chewing moth, indigenous to Africa – Medium impact
  • Lantanophaga pusillidactyla, a flower-mining moth – Minor impact
  • Octotoma scabripennis, a leaf-mining beetle – Sporadic outbreaks, inland areas
  • Ophiomyia lantanae, a fruit-mining fly – Minor impact
  • Orthezia insignis, a stem-sucking bug, a cosmopolitan pest with preference for lantana – Localized impact
  • Phenacoccus parvus, a leaf-sucking bug, a cosmopolitan pest with preference for lantana – Very localized
  • Salbia haemorrhoidalis, a leaf-chewing moth – Localized, minor impact
  • Teleonemia scrupulosa, a eaf-sucking bug – Sporadic outbreaks, drier areas
  • Uroplata girardi, a leaf-mining beetle – Sporadic outbreaks, coast

The shocking truth is that the ‘generally very healthy’ state of lantana in South Africa is ‘with’ or ‘after’ biocontrol. The lantana biocontrol agents currently established are simply unable to stop the weed densifying and 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.