Lantana camara (commonly called Lantana) is a member of the Caprifoliaceae or Verbenaceae family and native to tropical settings such as the Caribbean, South Africa, and Malaysia.
The plant has been introduced into warm climates around the world as an ornamental garden shrub.
In some locations, this is unfortunate because it is not only invasive; it is also quite poisonous.
Today Lantana is a major pest in warmer climates of the United States and in warm locations, such as Australia, where it has escaped the garden setting and made itself at home in ditches, stream beds, and other warm, moist, sunny settings.
What Parts Of Lantana Plants Are Poisonous or Toxic?
The Lantana plant ranges in size and shape depending upon its setting and resources available to it.
It’s possible to contain the plant as a small garden shrub and ground cover, but when it escapes, it can spread wild and grow into multiple large bushes some 5’ – 6’ feet high.
NOTE: New hybrids have helped tame to the plant making it much less invasive.
Its stems are squared and somewhat spiny.
The simple leaves may grow in opposing pairs or in a whorled pattern around the stem.
Leaf margins are serrated, and the pretty multicolored flowers grow in flat, round clusters.
Flowers mature into tempting blue or black fruits.
Like poison ivy, all parts of the plant are poisonous, but it is the dark bluish/black and green berries which typically cause problems.
They are quite attractive and highly toxic to children, horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, and other mammals; although, birds seem to be able to eat them without ill effect.
What Are The Symptoms Of Poisoning?
The toxic principle of this plant is triterpene acids lantadene A and B.
These have a negative impact on the liver (intrahepatic homeostasis) and gallbladder.
Livestock, pets, and children who consume approximately one-percent of their body weight in green leaves and/or berries will experience poisoning.
Symptoms of Lantana poisoning vary from species-to-species and are also dependent upon the amount of plant being ingested.
Acute poisoning may cause gastrointestinal distress, including:
- Bloody Diarrhea
- Stomach Pain
Other symptoms which may be caused by ingestion, contact with the sap and inhalation of smoke from burning plants include:
- Shortness of Breath
- Sun Sensitivity
Animals who eat small amounts of the plant on a regular basis over a more extended period will lose weight, refuse to eat and suffer liver malfunction leading to jaundice and death.
If long term poisoning is suspected, your veterinarian will want to run tests for elevated bilirubin and liver enzymes.
Animals affected by Lantana poisoning may be treated with administration of intravenous fluids and feeding a slurry containing activated charcoal to help absorb the poison.
Skin affected by contact with the sap may be treated with antibiotics and must be protected from the rays of the sun.
Physostigmine (aka eserine) is a cholinesterase inhibitor which may be helpful if poisoning is caught quickly, but this is a product most people are unlikely to have on hand.
Call 911 or the poison control hotline (USA 1-800-222-1222) right away if Lantana poisoning is suspected.
How To Protect Yourself While Handling Lantana
Although Lantana is a pretty plant and certainly very easy to grow in a warm climate, some consider the plant to be a noxious, invasive weed.
Remove it promptly and carefully through the use of herbicides or by digging it out.
Never burn it because the smoke is toxic.
Whenever you must handle poisonous plants like Lantana, take proper precautions by wearing protective clothing, gloves, eye, and respiratory protection.