Weeds of Wednesday: Pretty in Pink or NOT ?

Terry Greene (Class of 2019) spotted this pretty pink lantana flowering at Treasure Shores Park on our walk on 7-13-2019.  It mostly likely is the lantana (Lantana strigocamara), also know as shrub verbena.  This plant has been named a category #1 invasive pest plant bythe Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council and is regarded as a pernicious pasture weed due to its toxicity to cows and horses.

Lantana is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant that thrives in dry, sunny areas and is a quite attractive nectar source for butterflies and other pollinators.  Many of these cultivars are sterile and, hence, do not escape into natural areas.

Below is a photo taken at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) area unripe fruits.  Though of these plants have been removed, birds continue to bring more seeds, so eternal vigilance is required.

This invasive lantana species has hybridized with a low-growing yellow flowered native lantana (Lantana depressa).  Once upon a time, a variety of this native lantana (Lantana depressa var. floridana) grew along the southern coast of Florida.  Below is a photo a hybrid that initially appears to be the native “real deal”.

Lantana depressa hybrids have initially yellow flowers that turn pinkish orange with age.

Real Lantana depressa has only 8 -13 marginal teeth on each side of the leaf and is incredibly uncommon.  The invasive exotic Lantana camara has 15 – 30 teeth, and the hybrid L. depressa var. floridana has 10 – 25.  When I counted the marginal leaf teeth on 6 leaves from the plant pictured above, the average was 18.6.

Click here to see more photos and learn more about lantanas.  Invasive exotic pest plants cause all sorts of harm.




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