|Lantana (Lantana camara)|
It is originally native of the American tropics. Its native range includes Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela as well as in the state of Texas in the United States.
In Malta it is commonly known both in English and Maltese as lantana but it is also known as the Spanish flag, West Indian lantana and the red or yellow sage and in some places as ham ‘n eggs or bacon and eggs. The latter two names are popular in the United States because of the yellow and pink inflorescence.
In countries with a climate similar to that of its country of origin it can become a serious pest can push out native vegetation. It has invaded many parts of India, Australia and Africa. A farmer in Zimbabwe whom I was visiting many years ago had to use tractors to pull out the large lantana bushes that had taken over some of his fields.
The plant is slightly toxic and animals can become ill after eating it. Its berries are edible although they are toxic when still green.
A plus point for this species is that it’s flowers attracts many butterflies, moths and bees. In the United States it is often planted in butterfly gardens. I often spend a long time taking pictures of insects visiting the flowers of a lantana hedge at Buskett Gardens.
In parts of India the stalks of the lantana are now being used to make household furniture while the smaller branches are tied together to make brooms. Lantana is also used in herbal medicine. Leaf extracts are said to have antimicrobial, fungicidal and insecticidal properties.
This article was published in The Times on 13.12.10