Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants in the verbena family, Verbenaceae. They are native to tropical regions of the Americas and Africa but exist as an introduced species in numerous areas, especially in the Australian-Pacific region. The genus includes both herbaceous plants and shrubs growing to 0.5–2 m (1.6–6.6 ft) tall. Their common names are shrub verbenas or lantanas. The generic name originated in Late Latin, where it refers to the unrelated Viburnum lantana.
Lantana’s aromatic flower clusters (called umbels) are a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets. Other colors exist as new varieties are being selected. The flowers typically change color as they mature, resulting in inflorescences that are two- or three-colored.
Lantana species are widely cultivated for their flowers in tropical and subtropical environments and (as an annual plant) in temperate climates.
Most of the plants sold as lantana are either Spanish Flag (species of section Lantana and their hybrids, including L. camara, L. depressa, L. hirsuta, L. horrida, L. splendens, L. strigocamara, etc.), or Trailing Lantana (L. montevidensis). Numerous cultivars of the Spanish Flag exist, including ‘Irene’, ‘Christine’ and ‘Dallas Red’ (all tall-growing cultivars) and several recently introduced shorter ones. The shorter cultivars may flower more prolifically than the taller ones. L. montevidensis gives blue (or white) flowers all year round. Its foliage is dark green and has a distinct odor.
Although lantanas are generally hardy and, being somewhat toxic, are usually rejected by herbivores, they may still become infested with pests.
The edibility of Lantana berries is contested. Some experts claim Lantana berries are edible when ripe though like many fruit are mildly poisonous if eaten while still green. Other experts claim that experimental research indicates that both unripe and ripe Lantana berries are potentially lethal, despite claims by others that ripe berries are not poisonous.
Extracts of Lantana camara may be used for protection of cabbage against the aphid Lipaphis erysimi.
The Soliga, Korava and Palliyar tribal people of the MM Hills in southern Karnataka, India use Lantana for weaving furniture, as an alternate to expensive cane or bamboo. The Lantana stem being hard is not vulnerable to termite damage. If treasted with Varnish, Lantata furnish can get the glow, similar to cane furniture.
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