Lantanas are wonderfully heavy bloomers, often prized additions to floral gardens, and commonly grown indoors.
In colder climates, they are mostly grown as seasonal annuals.
The genus Lantana has around 150 individual species, plus numerous hybrids and cultivars.
But there’s one huge downside to lantanas common in members of the Verbenaceae family: toxicity.
The Lantana plant is well known for its flowers and attractive clusters of blue blackberries that grow in plant hardiness zones 9 through 12. Moreover, the plant’s leaves and stems are covered with a layer of fine hairs.
However, it’s easy to forget that plant parts might not be edible.
Unfortunately, children and pets may find parts of these plants to be quite tasty. Therefore, it is good to consider whether or not parts – such as those juicy berries – are edible before choosing where to plant them.
Are Lantana Berries Edible?
Except for humans under certain circumstances, no.
The berries are the most toxic at any stage to most pets, with the unripe ones being the most toxic (and also toxic to humans).
However, all parts of these plants are poisonous, and that includes lantana flowers, stems, and leaves.
The Culprit: Pentacyclic Triterpenoids
Known for their sometimes beneficial properties, pentacyclic triterpenoids are biologically active phytochemicals important in pharmaceuticals.
Being the largest class of natural products, these chemicals are used in all sorts of medications, with different compounds in the class having different effects.
Pentacyclic triterpenoids are used as anti-inflammatories and have anti-tumor and anti-hypertensive properties, making them an important tool in cancer treatment.
However, they can be incredibly toxic when consumed and result in a wide range of side effects resulting in death in some pets.
Out of this class, the two main compounds found in lantana shrubs are lantadene A (AKA rehmannic acid) and lantadene B.
Effects on Cats and Dogs
Thankfully, cats and dogs tend to only nibble on lantanas, causing milder symptoms.
However, repeated ingestion can cause liver damage and may eventually even result in death.
Common symptoms of ingestion may take 24 hours, although some cases have been asymptomatic.
These symptoms include:
- Ataxia (staggering or abnormal movements)
- Dark Urine
- Diarrhea (sometimes bloody)
- Frequent Urination
- Labored breathing
More severe cases may also involve:
- Liver Damage/Failure
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight loss
Effects on Horses and Livestock
Grazing animals like cattle, goats, and other livestock are prone to eating larger quantities than cats or dogs and thus may have more severe symptoms.
This is especially problematic because the symptoms in large animals may not even show for weeks when the damage is irreversible.
Horses and livestock may also have an additional symptom due to phylloerythrin buildup in the skin, which can cause photosensitivity.
Effects on Humans
Properly ripened lantana berries are edible and create jams and jellies.
However, unripe berries are mildly toxic to humans.
The symptoms in humans tend to be mild, usually consisting of stomach aches or nausea.
A study in the Journal of Pediatrics examined 641 cases of children ingesting parts of lantana plants.
Of those, most were asymptomatic, and there were no serious effects.
However, it is best to keep the plants out of reach of children to be safe, as the study shared a broad range of circumstances instead of focusing on berry consumption.
Effects on Other Pets
Ripe berries on lantana are non-toxic to many species of birds, so be sure to check whether it is safe for the specific species of pet bird you own if growing where they’re allowed to fly or before feeding them the berries.
Ingestion can be fatal to rodents such as guinea pigs and rabbits.
In case of ingestion
When it comes to cats or dogs, you should monitor their symptoms closely.
If they are eating and drinking fine and their only symptoms are non-bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting, the problem should pass in 24 to 48 hours.
However, if they show more serious symptoms or persist for more than 48 hours, you should take them to a vet.
Pet rodents should be taken immediately to a vet, and a vet should likewise be consulted if you suspect your horse or livestock have been feeding on lantanas.
As for humans, accidental ingestion of unripe berries may cause discomfort and some minor symptoms but are not usually a cause for emergency care.
Monitor the situation and make sure only the berries are consumed.
Any symptoms should pass on their own within a day or two.
There are two ways you can have lantanas without worrying about the berries.
The first method is to deadhead your lantanas, which eliminates the risk of berries forming and encourages additional blooms. But sometimes, the lantana does not bloom.
The other option is to invest in sterile cultivars.
These cultivars produce plenty of blooms but won’t create seeds.
A few sterile cultivars worth noting are:
- ‘New Gold’
- ‘Texas Flame’
- ‘Weeping Lavender’