Color Changing Lantana Flowers – Why Do Lantana Flowers Change Color?
Lantana (Lan-tah-nah) are tropical flowering plants native to Mexico, Central America and South America. They grow from 1 to 2 feet tall with smooth green leaves and red flowers. There are over 100 species of lantanas. Some have white flowers while others have purple or blue colored flowers. All lantanas have similar characteristics: they all produce seeds which fall off when ripe. When the seed falls onto the ground, it begins to turn into a different variety of plant depending on where it lands. For example, if it lands on a rock, then it will become a linden tree; if it lands on soil, then it will become a cactus; etc.
The most common type of lantana is the Mexican lantana (Lantanna), which produces yellow flowers and grows up to 3 feet tall. Another type is the Guatemalan lantana (Lanta-na-nuh), which produces red flowers and grows up to 4 feet tall.
Lantanas are commonly seen around houses, city streets, and cemeteries. However, they also grow in less populated areas such as the forest.
They can be seen in other parts of North America, South America, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and some islands in the Caribbean. In other nations they are known as yellow flowered bush, orange flowered bush, starflower, wild gardenia and hummingbird flower.
Lantana flowers make excellent honey. Native tribes in the area would collect it from the lantana flower, put it in containers and allow it to ferment.
The lantana flower provides enough nectar that several honeybees can extract it without destroying the plant.
The Warao people living in northern South America have traditionally used lantana as a spice, in addition to its other uses. The Warao people have used the leaves to wrap meat when cooking.
The Warao people have also used the leaves to create cups for holding liquid. The Waraos use the flowers to create a red dye for painting their faces and the bodies of their boats.
The leaves of the lantana have traditionally been used as a food wrapper, in dye, and in herbal medicine to treat: heart problems, malaria, and skin irritation. In Cuba, lantana is used as an ingredient in a tea which treats diarrhea and vomiting.
The lantana flower is food for Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and other small birds. The nectar from the flower provides energy for the bird while it flies and searches for food.
In South America, traditional healers have used lantana as a medicine to treat fever, colds, coughing, swelling, upset stomach, and skin problems such as ringworm. The leaves are used to clean minor wounds and sores.
In Jamaica, parts of the lantana plant are used in love potions and the flowers are often used as a decoration.
Lantana is sometimes grown for ornamental purposes and is included in some wildflower gardens.
The lantana flower typically grows between 8 and 36 inches tall with a spread of 12 to 18 inches. Lantanas can either be single stemmed or have clusters of branches reaching between 12 and 24 inches.
The leaves of the lantana are typically a light green in color, oblong and opposite.
The flowers of the lantana are typically 1 inch in diameter and come in colors such as yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and white. The flowers grow in clusters of threes and have five petals with a typical lantana flower having two long stamens extending from the center.
The fruit of the lantana is typically a round berry that is red or black in color and contains several seeds.
The lantana tends to grow in dry, sunny areas such as fields, plains, pastures and roadsides.
The lantana is typically found in Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean region.
In North America the lantana can typically be found from Texas and Arizona in the south, throughout California and Oregon to Washington and British Columbia in the north. The lantana tends to thrive in the southern United States as well as in subtropical areas such as Florida, Hawaii, and Southern California.
Lantana grows as a weed in pastures, open fields, and roadsides. The lantana is also invasive and can grow high enough to cast shade on other plants growing nearby, competing with them for nutrients, sunlight, and water.
Lantana has few predators due to its toxic nature. Herbivores such as rabbits and goats will avoid the plant.
Lantana toxicity does occasionally kill animals such as cattle that might consume large quantities of it.
The lantana plant has several varieties that grow in different regions and are typically classified by their color.
While some lantana varieties are toxic to most animals, some varieties are palatable. For this reason, its a common misconception that all lantana is poisonous.
The berries and leaves of the lantana can be toxic to humans and other animals. Symptoms can include: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, rash, numbness of the mouth, difficulty breathing, rapid heartbeat, and even death.
The toxic nature of the plant is due to the presence of alkaloid toxins known as haemanthamines.
The lantana is very hardy and can grow almost anywhere in the United States, typically growing in warm, dry conditions. Lantana can also grow in sand, loam, clay, and even rocky soil.
The lantana is typically planted in gardens and wildflower areas.
The lantana is typically cut down and removed from pastures and fields in an effort to keep it from spreading.
The lantana is also known as: wild Tea, Indian Robin, Yellow Sage, Honey Flower, Provence Rose, Way-Farer, Tickberry, Spanish sorrel, running oak, Silverleaf, Painted Ditchflower and Creeping Willow.
The lantana plant has been used in several different ways by different cultures.
In Mexican culture, the lantana is known as a symbol of death. It is customary to scatter loose lantana petals over graves during funerals.
In Caribbean cultures, the flowers and leaves are steeped in boiling water to create a tea. The tea is then drunk to relieve anxiety, improve sleep, and calm nerves.
In traditional medicine, lantana is used to treat cold and flu symptoms. It has also been used to treat diarrhea, vomiting, diabetes, fevers, depression, headaches, skin growths, epilepsy, and even as a stimulant.
While beautiful, the lantana can be harmful if ingested. Care should be taken to keep the plant away from domestic animals and children who may be tempted to taste its berries or flowers.
Sources & references used in this article:
Flower Colour Changes in Lantana camara by HYM Ram, G Mathur – Journal of experimental botany, 1984 – academic.oup.com
Significance of Petal Colour in Thrips-pollinated Lentana camara L. by G Mathur, HYM Ram – Annals of Botany, 1978 – JSTOR
Floral color changes as cues for pollinators by MR Weiss – VI International Symposium on Pollination 288, 1990 – actahort.org
Lantana invasion: An overview by GP Sharma, AS Raghubanshi… – Weed Biology and …, 2005 – Wiley Online Library
Pollinator specificity in Lantana camara and L. trifolia (Verbenaceae) by DW Schemske – Biotropica, 1976 – JSTOR
Seasonal and chemotype influences on the chemical composition of Lantana camara L.: Essential oils from Madagascar by JA Randrianalijaona, PAR Ramanoelina… – Analytica Chimica …, 2005 – Elsevier
Spatial and temporal distribution of Lantana mites phoretic on butterflies by CL Boggs, LE Gilbert – Biotropica, 1987 – JSTOR
A review of Lantana camara studies in India by N Priyanka, PK Joshi – International Journal of Scientific and Research …, 2013 – Citeseer
Floral colour changes as cues for pollinators by MR Weiss – Nature, 1991 – nature.com