Flowers of the Eastern Cape-no 3: Lantana Camara
Another of the interesting flowering shrubs found in the Eastern Cape is the Lantana Camara, an invasive alien plant from tropica South America that has been declared a category 1 weed due to its poisonous effect. It is dangerous to grazing animals such as sheep, goats and cattle. Its leaves contain a hepatoxity that can sometimes prove to be fatal to these animals and the green berries are also poisonous before they turn black.
Lantana is a genus that contains about 150 species, a flowering plant that is found in many countries including Israel, Spain, the USA, South America and Australia. Its flowers can be red, orange, pink, yellow or blue and provide an attractive display in the summer when they bloom.
They are an important source of nectar for bees and also attract many kinds of butterflies.
From a birding point of view is provides an interesting dilemma as the rare and endangered Knysna Warbler seems to have adapted to these bushes as a preferred habitat in some areas. The furtive Warbler can often be heard calling from stands of Lantana Camara with its repetitive tik,tik, tik followed by a long trilling end to the call.
With the removal of these plants there seems to be a decline in the presence of these birds in those areas where the Lantana has been eradicated. The local bird club recently tried to do some research in this area, but found it difficult to pin down, and so for now it remains a theory held by some enthusiasts.
The question however remains; do we remove the offensive weed and possibly endanger the future of an endemic bird species that is estimated to consist of less than 10 000 in number?