Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Originally from the Americas, Lantana (Lantana camara), a Weed of National Significance, is a thicket-forming shrub that has spread from gardens into pastures, woodlands and rainforests.
  • Well established on the east coast in Queensland and NSW, and in areas of the NT, and WA, but not considered invasive in cool temperate areas.
  • Forms dense thickets and reproduces by layering (vegetative spread) and plants produce 1000s of seeds spread by birds, animals and water.
  • It threatens agriculture and pastoral production, forestry and biodiversity of conservation areas, typically invades disturbed land and river margins.
  • The highest priority for Lantana control is preventing its spread.
  • Integrated control should combine mechanical, chemical, fire, biological methods, and re-vegetation.

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Lantana (Lantana camara) is a perennial, summer-growing, erect sprawling or scandent (having a climbing habit) shrub, often growing in dense impenetrable thickets, normally 1–4 metres high, but can scramble up into trees and in favourable conditions can grow to 6 metres high. Lantana has a short taproot and a mat of many shallow side roots. The stems and branches are normally quadrangular (4-angled) in cross-section when young, but become cylindrical and up to 150 mm thick with age (CRC 2003), often well armed with short recurved prickles and sometimes with glands or glandular hairs. The leaves are in opposite pairs on the stem, with successive pairs borne at right angles to each other. The leaves are ovate (egg-shaped with the widest part near the base) to oblong-ovate (oblong = length a few times greater than width, with sides almost parallel, and ends rounded), about 40-100 mm long, 30-60 mm wide, often covered with rough coarse hairs on the upper surface and strongly aromatic due to glandular hairs. The margins are bluntly toothed with 5–40 teeth per side.

The inflorescence (flower cluster) is a dense head of 20-40 hemispheric flowers, 20–30 mm diameter. Flowers are 10–14 mm long brightly coloured, ranging from yellow, orange-yellow, deep orange, deep red, pink, rose-pink to white, often with a variation of colours in each head of flowers and with the flowers having the ability to change colour as they mature.

The fruit are berries (drupes), initially green, ripening to shiny purple-black to black, containing one or sometimes two pale seeds (CRC 2003).

Lantana is an 'aggregate species', or 'species complex'. There are several natural variants of Lantana camara across its presumed native range in the tropical Americas, and in addition some hundreds of horticultural colour and habit varieties have been developed around the world, with over 650 varietal names coined (DECC 2007).

Recognition: This species can normally be recognised by the combination of the following characters; perennial, erect sprawling or climbing shrub forming dense impenetrable thickets 1-4 metres high, but growing into trees can grow to 6 metres high; lower cluster) is a dense head of 20-40 multi-coloured hemispheric flowers, 20–30 mm diameter; fruits are berries initially green, ripening to shiny purple-black to black.

For further information and assistance with identification of Lantana contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Lantana can grow in high-rainfall areas with tropical, subtropical and warm temperate climates. It does not tolerate salty or dry soils, water-logging or low temperatures (<5 ºC). It thrives on rich, organic soils but also grows on well-drained clay and basalt soils. Sandy soils tend to dry out too rapidly for Lantana unless soil moisture is continually replenished. It has been reported at altitudes up to 1000 m in Queensland (CRC 2003).

Lantana invades disturbed sites, especially open sunny areas, such as roadsides, cultivated pastures and fencelines. Lantana invasion appears to be strongly correlated with disturbance. In primary production situations it predominately impacts on unimproved pastures or areas where soil is exposed and competition is reduced. In environmental systems lantana invades
where there are significant breaks or gaps in forest canopies (Stock 2009). From there it can invade the edges of forests, but it does not fare as well under a heavy canopy as it is not very shade tolerant (CRC 2003). Lantana is now present at the headwaters of major west-flowing catchments of the Murray–Darling Basin, and it may be able to spread further west along riparian corridors given favourable climatic conditions (Stock 2009).

Are there similar species?

Creeping Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) occurs in coastal and subcoastal Queensland and New South Wales from Cairns to the Nowra region south of Sydney. It is similar to Lantana camara but does not have thorns, has mainly purple flowers and trails along the ground, only growing to a height of half a metre. It is also toxic and readily displaces native vegetation (CRC 2003).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Lantana (Lantana camara) is a Weed of National Significance. It is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts. Lantana forms dense, impenetrable thickets impacting agricultural, native ecosystems, urban areas and human health.

Agriculture: Lantana forms dense, impenetrable thickets that take over pastures on the east coast of Australia. It competes for resources with, and reduces the productivity of, pastures and forestry plantations. It adds fuel to fires, and is toxic to stock (CRC 2003).  There does not appear to be any documentation of palatability and toxicity to native fauna. Toxicity seems likely to be related to genetic factors, not environmental ones. Most variants of Lantana (Lantana camara) in Australia are toxic to domestic livestock (sheep, cattle) to some degree (CRC 2003). DPI NSW (2019) state that all types and parts of lantana are considered poisonous to stock. Red-flowered lantana is most dangerous and stock poisoning is common. It happens most when new animals are introduced into Lantana areas and there is no other feed. Cattle used to grazing lantana-infested land are less likely to eat it. Early symptoms of lantana poisoning include, depression, loss of appetite, constipation, frequent urination, jaundice for 1 – 2 days,  inflamed eyes with a slight discharge, mouth area becoming inflamed, moist, and very sensitive, with a pink nose, bare skin becoming very sensitive to light, red and swollen, or may crack, turn black, and die. Stock usually die 1–4 weeks after symptoms appear. Death is slow and painful from liver and kidney failure. Some animals have heart damage.

Native ecosystems: Lantana forms dense, impenetrable thickets that also easily take over native bushland, adding fuel to fires (CRC 2003). Lantana is a serious threat to biodiversity in several World Heritage-listed areas including the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland, Fraser Island and the Greater Blue Mountains. Numerous plant and animal species of conservation significance are threatened. It is listed as the most significant environmental weed by the South-East Queensland Environmental Weeds Management Group. Lantana dominance appears to adversely affect the species richness of soil fauna assemblages, such as ants, and decreases the diversity of soil fungi. It can also affect flora diversity by reducing seedling germination and by increasing the chance and severity of fire in plant communities such as dry rainforest. Lantana has been identified as a potential threat to many threatened and endangered plants and animals and a number of endangered ecological communities (DECC 2007).

Urban areas: Can invade urban areas and All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans if eaten and can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, weak muscles, breathing problems, and sometimes death. Touching Lantana can irritate skin and eyes. Some toxic reactions have been recorded in humans, especially children (DECC 2007). If poisoning occurs and:

  • the patient is unconscious, unresponsive or having difficulty breathing dial 000 or get to the emergency section of a hospital immediately.
  • the patient is conscious and responsive call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or your doctor.
  • If going to a hospital take a piece of the plant for identification.

How does it spread?

Lantana spreads in two ways, layering and from seed.

Layering is a form of vegetative reproduction where stems send roots into the soil, allowing it to quickly form very dense stands and spread short distances. Lantana can re-sprout from the base if the shoot dies, extending the life of individual plants (CRC 2003). Lantana is allelopathic and can release chemicals into the surrounding soil which prevent germination and competition from some other plant species (CRC 2003).

Plants also produce viable seeds. Butterflies, bees and other insects are attracted by the nectar and pollinate Lantana flowers. About half of the flowers produce seeds, typically 1-20 seeds on each flower head. Mature plants can produce up to 12,000 seeds every year. Seeds are thought to remain viable for several years under natural conditions (CRC 2003). Also, birds and other animals such as foxes consume and pass the seed in their droppings, potentially spreading it over quite large distances. The germination rate of fresh seed is generally low, but improves after being digested (CRC 2003). Seed longevity in the soil is not well documented, but seeds are thought to remain viable for several years under natural conditions. Work suggests an in-soil longevity of at least three and up to five years. Germination rates are reported as being increased by removal of fruit pulp, as occurs with passage through the digestive system of birds and by warm temperatures, light, and high soil moisture. Germination rates even under favourable conditions are sometimes reported as fairly low (<45% or less), but as fruits may set at rates of up to several thousand /m2 there is a considerable soil seedbank (CRC 2003; DECC 2007).

What is its history in Australia?

The earliest record for Australia is from 1841 in the old Botanic Gardens in Adelaide, South Australia, and cultivated plants are known to have been grown in New South Wales by John Macarthur at Camden Park in 1843. There have been multiple introductions since, mainly in New South Wales and Queensland. It was reported by 1879 as a "most troublesome weed" in Queensland and abundant around Port Jackson, New South Wales (DECC 2007).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

An integrated approach that uses a variety of control methods gives best results when dealing with Lantana (Lantana camara). A range of methods including, herbicides, mechanical removal, fire, biological control and re-vegetation should be used. Best results are obtained by working from areas of light infestation towards heavier infestation, and long-term follow-up control is required after initial attempts. Minimise both disturbance to land and excessive use of fire to retain vigorous native vegetation and reduce the opportunity for Lantana to become established (CRC 2003). The combination of methods used will depend on the extent of the infestation, the land-form on which it is found, and the time of year during which control is to be undertaken. Re-vegetation of treated sites is also important. For more information on Lantana control see CRC 2003.

Chemical control: A variety of chemical controls are used to control Lantana and are described in detail in Stock (2009). The addition of penetrants and surfactants (adjuvants) to some herbicides may increase the herbicide absorption into the Lantana’s sap system.

Foliar sprays: can be applied when the plants that are actively growing application to thoroughly wet all foliage and stems to the point of run-off. Use a nozzle configuration and pressure that ensures canopy penetration. Consideration for application of chemicals (normally listed on label) are; plant condition and size; environmental condition; application timing. Selective and residual herbicide can be used

Root application: is when a residual herbicide can be applied to the soil between the base of the plant and the drip-line, usually when the soil is wet or rain is expected , and is normally used where there are no native plants to be affected.

Cut-and-swab method (Cut stump treatment): is when each stem is cut off at ground level and immediately applying herbicide to the cut surface. This method is used for Lantana provide reliable control and can be useful where options are limited by the risk of off-target damage or the poor condition of the Lantana plants.

Cut, scrape and paint method: The cut, scrape and paint method is a variant of the cut stump method that requires more effort but is often more effective.

Basal bark application: This technique involves the application of herbicide mixed with diesel directly to the lower trunk and over branches of the Lantana plant—similar to a form of chemical ring-barking.

Stock et al. (2009) and and DPI NSW (2019) provide detailed information on the use of herbicides to control Lantana. See References, links and further resources. Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au. NOTE: Training is normally a requirement in most States and Territories for all or some of the methods.

Non-chemical control: Physical control,  or manual methods such as hand pulling and grubbing and hand cutting may be suitable where infestations are hard to access with machinery and equipment and for the protection of certain threatened species, or where there is a desire to avoid the use of chemicals. as a follow-up treatment. It is most effective after rain when the soil is moist. A mattock, chip hoe or lever can be used to remove larger plants, including their root system.

Hand cutting with a powered brush-cutter can create access into heavy infestations for carrying out other control. Hand-held brush hooks or machetes can also be used.

Warning: Touching Lantana can irritate skin and eyes and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be worn, examples, protective glasses or goggles covering eyes, and long sleeve tops and full length pants and boots with gloves protecting skin.

Mechanical control: Mechanical methods are usually most suitable for the control of extensive Lantana infestations. Methods used include; slashing involving cutting plants at the soil surface with blades or chains that spin parallel to the ground. Stick raking/pushing involves using a tractor-mounted rake or blade to push Lantana out of the ground. A stick rake attached to
a dozer removes the majority of the stump and root system from the ground while minimising the loss of topsoil. Mechanical grubbing removes entire Lantana plants from the ground with an implement attached to a tractor, backhoe, excavator or even a bobcat. It is suitable for scattered to moderate infestations of mature Lantana (Stock 2009).

Competition and management:  Competition from existing/sown grasses and scrambling legumes with subsequent trampling and grazing by livestock can reduce the size, height and density of a Lantana infestation, allowing access for follow-up controls. In native ecosystems re-vegetation is useful.

Fire: Control of Lantana using fire is  practiced as a cost-effective means of removing biomass and Lantana suppression. After a burn follow-up methods are critical in an integrated control program to treat any regeneration and germination of Lantana. Can be used in agricultural and natural ecosystems, see Stock (2009) for information.

Biological control: Lantana has also been recognised as a target for biological control through a cross-jurisdictional government process. This allows activities to be undertaken to develop effective biological controls.

In 1902 the first attempt at biological control of a weed targeted Lantana in Hawaii. In Australia biological control agents were first introduced in 1914; so far 31 species have been introduced. Research into biological control is ongoing, and several agents are currently being examined for suitability of release (CRC 2003). Of the 16 species that have established, four insects have had a major impact on Lantana: a sap-sucking bug (Teleonemia scrupulosa); two leaf-mining beetles (Uroplata girardi and Octotoma scabripennis); and a seed-feeding fly (Ophiomyia lantanae). The biological control agents vary in their effectiveness against the many different types of Lantana. For example, Lantana can drop its leaves when stressed, depriving some agents of their food (CRC 2003). Also these agents are seasonal and do not generally result in the death of the plants but should be used as part of an integrated control program.

Does it have a biological control agent?

YES. Thirty-five biocontrol agents released with eighteen establishing (Harvey,  et al 2023).

When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Germination most frequently occurs following the first summer storms, but may occur at any time of the year when sufficient moisture is present and as soil temperature increases. Initial seedling growth is slow until the roots become established, after which close stems intertwine and begin to form thickets. Flowering does not usually commence until early in the following summer and then continues until March or April (CRC 2003).

However, Lantana flowers whenever the soil is moist and the air is warm and humid. For much of its range along the Queensland and New South Wales coasts, this results in almost continuous flowering and fruiting. Further inland, peak flowering occurs several weeks after soaking rain (25 mm or more) and is usually accompanied by good fruit set (CRC 2003).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Lantana camara is now found across four million hectares of land east of the Great Dividing Range, from Mount Dromedary in southern New South Wales to Cape Melville in northern Queensland. Isolated infestations exist in the Top End of the Northern Territory, around Perth in Western Australia, and on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Although present Australia wide as a garden ornamental, it has not naturalised to any serious extent elsewhere (CRC 2003). Only casual individual plants or garden plantings spreading vegetatively under (or over) the garden fence have been recorded in South Australia.

Where does it originate?

Lantana occurs naturally in Mexico, the Caribbean and tropical and subtropical Central and South America. It is considered a weed in nearly 50 countries (CRC 2003).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?

Declared in all Australian states and territories.

Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Lantana camara

Other scientific names (synonyms)?

  • Camara aculeata (L.) Kuntze
  • Lantana aculeata L.
  • Lantana camara var. aculeata (L.) Moldenke
  • Lantana camara var. crocea (Jacq.) L.H.Bailey
  • Lantana camara var. flava (Medik.) Moldenke
  • Lantana camara var. mista (L.) L.H.Bailey
  • Lantana camara var. mutabilis (Hook.) L.H.Bailey
  • Lantana camara var. sanguinea (Medik.) L.H.Bailey
  • Lantana camara var. splendens (Medik.) Moldenke
  • Lantana crocea Jacq.
  • Lantana flava Medik.
  • Lantana mista L.
  • Lantana nivea var. mutabilis Hook.
  • Lantana sanguinea Medik.
  • Lantana splendens Medik.
  • Lantana tiliaefolia Cham. (incorrent spelling)
  • Lantana tiliifolia Cham.

Does it have other known common name(s)?

Common Lantana, Kamara Lantana, Largeleaf Lantana, Large-leaf Lantana, , Pink Flowered Lantana, Pink-Flowered Lantana, Red Flowered Lantana, Red-Flowered Sage, White Sage, Wild Sage

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