Last weekend I was shopping for a container plant to add some cheer to my front porch when my choice was made easy by following a large swallowtail butterfly who landed on a pot of “Bandana Lemon Zest “ lantana in the garden shop (shown above). We have several pots of different varieties of lantana, but just one lantana in the ground in our garden that returns reliably, although a little slowly after last winter’s prolonged cold…Basket of Gold. These lantanas have been developed by growers in various colors and forms for the garden trade, but they share at least some of the traits of native lantana – tolerant of drought, poor soil and heat.
A common lantana that is actually a tropical native is Tropical Lantana, Lantana camara, shown below, which has been cross-bred for the nursery trade. Although it has the charming common name of Ham and Eggs, according to USDA it has become invasive in the state of Florida.
The native lantana in our region is Texas lantana, - originally named Lantana horrida; according to the Native Plant Society of Texas – the scientific name referred to the strong odor of the plant. It was later renamed Lantana urticoides. Common names are Calico Bush, Bacon and Eggs and West Indian Shrub Verbena.
|Texas lantana from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, by Joseph A. Marcus|
Here are the growth characteristics of Texas lantana, from Texas Native Plants Database.
Plant Habit or Use: small shrub - medium shrub
Exposure: sun - partial sun
Flower Color: yellow, orange, red
Blooming Period: summer - fall
Fruit Characteristics: black drupe with 2 nutlets
Height: 2 to 6 feet
Width: 2 to 6 feet
Plant Character: deciduous
Heat Tolerance: very high
Soil Requirements: adaptable
From the Native Plant Society of Texas we learn that
“Texas lantana produces deep purple-black berries which are poisonous to most mammals, including cattle, sheep and humans. However many birds relish them and spread the seeds. Birds are not the only wildlife to benefit. Bees use the nectar in honey production. Texas lantana, with its verbena tube flowers, is an excellent food-source for many nectaring butterflies, especially swallowtails, hairstreaks, skippers, sulphurs and brush-foot butterflies. It is also a crucial food source for the larva of the Lantana Scrub-Hairsteak butterfly.”