Lantana camara (and various cultivars)
Plant of the month: August
Also Known As: big sage / tickberry
Native To: American tropics
Blooms: summer to autumn
Habitat: wastelands, forest edges, grasslands and beach fronts
Where Found At Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Mediterranean House
This highly ornamental, small shrub grows to 2m tall and has pungent leaves when crushed, thorny stems and brightly coloured flowers. It belongs to the Verbena family Verbenaceae. Each ‘flower’ is in fact numerous flowers joined together (inflorescence). These consist of many tubular flowers clustered together. Each flower has four petals and range in colour from white, mauve, pink, orange, yellow and red. Highly attractive to butterflies and most insects, after pollination, the flowers change colour. For example yellow to red, signalling to insects that the pre-change colour has the best nectar. Once pollinated, the flowers turn into inedible green fruits, ripening to black. These are eaten by birds, which then deposit the seeds over large distances. It has been introduced to over 50 warm climate countries of the world, where it has become invasive, outcompeting native flora. Being drought tolerant, it thrives in lots of sun and heat and does better in a warm glasshouse or conservatory in the UK.