- History and Culture
Lantana camara is a thorny shrub that can grow up to 2 meters in height. It forms a twisting dense thicket that can extend up to 4 meters. The leaves are small, ovate and scabrous with a soft hairy underside. It gives white, yellow, pink, orange and red four-petaled tubular flowers that grow in clusters of about 5 cm wide. When the thorny branches or leaves are cut or crushed, they give off a strong particular odour. It produces small round drupes or fruit which turn from green to almost black when they mature.
Lantana camara is native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and tropical South America. It is a common ornamental plant grown in gardens and as a hedge plant. It can be seen in a wide variety of habitats in the tropical zones. In agricultural fields it is a nuisance as it favours open and disturbed areas. The seeds are propagated by birds and animals which feed on the them and the species is hard to uproot. It can be seen at forest edges and can quickly become invasive as it can also spread laterally when the branches touch the soil and take root. It favours disturbed forests, where it can become the dominant understory species. This disrupts forest ecological succession and decreases biodiversity. It has been observed that as the density of Lantana increases, species richness decreases. This is partly attributed to its allelopathic qualities – its ability to release biochemicals affecting the vigour of nearby plant species. Its invasiveness is such that in certain areas the species has prevented the regeneration of forests for three decades.
Prevention and constant vigilance as well as repeated control of regrowth and new infestations are key to the management of Lantana. Mechanical clearing and hand pulling has been deemed suitable for small areas, while fires are potentially used in large areas. Biological control has also been used and while none of the agents used have resulted in total control, some insects have been known to be partially successful. These are Teleonemia scrupulosa (Hemiptera), Octotoma scabripennis (Coleoptera), Uroplata girardi (Coleoptera) and Ophiomyia lantanae (Diptera).
 Global Invasive Species Database (2018) Species profile: Lantana camara. Downloaded from http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/species.php?sc=56 on 13-08-2018.
L. camara was the first weed ever targeted for classical biological control. From the first trial at the turn of the twentieth century, 36 insects have been released throughout its exotic range, covering 33 countries. Unfortunately, biological control of the weed has shown to be disappointing.