Lantana (PROSEA)

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Plant Resources of South-East Asia
List of species

Lantana L.

Protologue: Sp. pl. 2: 626 (1753); Gen. pl. ed. 5: 275 (1754).
Family: Verbenaceae
Chromosome number: x= 11; L. camara: 2n= 22, 33, 44, 55, 66; L. trifolia: 2n= 48

Major species

  • Lantana camara L.,
  • L. trifolia L.

Vernacular names

  • Sage, wild sage (En).

Origin and geographic distribution

Lantana consists of approximately 150 species, and is native to tropical and subtropical America, the West Indies and Africa. Several species are well-known ornamentals, some are noxious weeds and have spread throughout the tropics and subtropics. L. camara and L. trifolia were introduced in Malesia in the 19th Century.


In Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand L. camara is assumed to have antiseptic properties, and so pounded leaves are applied to cuts and ulcers; a decoction of the leaves is used for the same purpose in the Philippines. In Java, the pounded leaves are applied to swellings to make them disappear; also a lotion or fomentation is made from them to treat rheumatism. A decoction of the leaves is used to treat constipation or as an emetic. In Indonesia and the Philippines a decoction or infusion of the leaves and flowers is used as a febrifuge, a diaphoretic and stimulant, and to relieve catarrh and bronchitis. A decoction of the fresh roots is used as a gargle to treat toothache in the Philippines and Thailand, and in Indonesia as a remedy for gonorrhoea and leucorrhoea. The ripe fruits are widely eaten by children.

In Central America a decoction is taken as a stomachic and remedy for rheumatism. A strong decoction is taken as an antidote for snakebites, whereas the crushed leaves are poulticed on the wound. A decoction of leaves or flowers is considered a remedy for colds or fever and employed for its diuretic and sudorific properties and as an emmenagogue. It is sometimes taken as a tonic and to treat hypertension in Costa Rica.

In Malaysia, L. trifolia is reported to be used in a similar way as L. camara. In Cuba, a decoction of the plant is applied externally to relieve rheumatism and is used as an eyewash in ophthalmia. In Colombia a decoction of the plant is used as an emmenagogue and sudorific. In Burundi the plant is used as a traditional remedy against gonorrhoea and applied to treat theileriasis in livestock.

In general, L. camara is widely grown for its colourful flowers; several forms and varieties are in cultivation. Despite its weedy nature it can be used to stabilize slopes for erosion control and as an undemanding hedge in nurseries.


The leaves of L. camara contain an essential oil, which is rich in sesquiterpenes. Furthermore, 6 compounds have been isolated and identified on the basis of chemical and spectral analysis: oleanonic acid, lantadene A, lantadene B, lantanilic acid, icterogenin and camaroside (4',5-dihydroxy-3,7-dimethoxyflavone-4'-O-β-D-glucopyranoside). Lantadene C (22-β-2-methylbutanoyloxy-3-oxo-olean-12-en-18-oic acid), also isolated from the leaves of L. camara has been found to be identical with dihydrolantandene A. Lantadene C resembles lantadene A in the pentacyclic part of the molecule, but differs in the side chain region. Atom C-34 is cis to C-35 in lantadene C, but is trans in lantadene A. Semisynthetic lantadene C has been prepared by catalytic hydrogenation of lantadene A: it appears in two forms, crystalline and amorphous. Furthermore, the two (pentacyclic triterpene acid) isomers lantadene A and lantadene B are the causal agents of most of the toxic effects.

Six oligosaccharides and six iridoid glucosides isolated from the ethanolic extract of L. camara roots have been identified as stachyose, verbascose, ajugose, verbascotetracose, lantanose A, lantanose B, and the glucosides theveside, 8-epiloganin, shanzhsid methyl ester, theviridoside, lamiridoside and geniposide.

Eight triterpenoids have been isolated from the roots of L. camara. On the basis of their chemical properties and spectral data, they have been identified as lantanolic acid, 22 β-O-angeloyl-lantanolic acid, oleanolic acid, 22 β-O-angeloyl-oleanolic acid, 22 β-O-senecioyl-oleanolic acid, 22 β-hydroxy-oleanolic acid, 19 α-hydroxy-ursolic acid and 3 β-isovaleroyl-19 α-hydroxy-ursolic acid (lantaiursolic acid). A bioactive triterpene, 22 β-acetoxylantic acid, was also isolated from L. camara; it showed antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella typhi, as well as antimutagenic activity.

The extract of root-bark of L. camara showed in vitro antimalarial activity in a test using the K1 strain of Plasmodium falciparum that is resistant to several drugs. L. camara leaves have been shown to contain water-soluble factors which caused isolated guinea-pig ileum to contract. The inhibitory effects of lantadenes and related triterpenoids from L. camara on the Epstein-Barr virus suggest potential against tumours. Verbascoside isolated from L. camara has in vitro antitumour activity, possibly at least partly due to inhibition of protein kinase C.

Potent inhibitors of human thrombin were demonstrated to be present in methanolic extracts from L. camara leaves. These were shown to be 5,5-trans-fused cyclic lactone-containing triterpenes. A methanol extract (0.05 μg/ml) of aerial parts of L. trifolia produced bronchodilation of isolated guinea-pig trachea comparable with that of salbutamol (0.05 μg/ml). The extract (0.1 μg/ml) reduced bronchoconstriction of isolated guinea-pig trachea induced by histamine, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) or acetylcholine. Physostigmine (2-4 μg/ml) failed to inhibit neuromuscular blocking activity of the extract (9 mg/ml) on rat phrenic nerve diaphragm. Using a disk diffusion method a methanolic extract of the leaves was found active against Neisseria gonorrhoea and N. meningitidis. The active component is probably the flavonoid umuhengerin (5-hydroxy-6,7,3',4',5'-pentamethoxyflavone).

All parts of Lantana except the flowers are toxic to livestock. Lantana poisoning in cattle, sheep, buffalo and guinea-pigs causes obstructive jaundice, photosensitization and raises serum glutamicoxaloacetic transaminase activity. The symptoms can be reproduced in sheep by administering purified lantadene A. The organs most affected during Lantana poisoning are the liver and kidneys. Intoxicating guinea-pigs with L. camara leads to marked alterations in major tissue constituents in these organs. Hepatic and renal xanthine oxidase activity is also elevated during poisoning. Lantana toxicity is manifested in three phases: the release and absorption of toxins in the gastro-intestinal tract, the hepatic phase resulting in cholestasis, hyperbilirubinaemia, hyperphylloerythrinaemia, and finally the tissue phase in which cell injury results from the accumulation of bilirubin and phylloerythrin. Thus, therapeutic measures should be aimed at arresting one or more of these phases. No antidote is available against the toxic section of L. camara. Symptomatic treatments have been proposed, with limited success. Unlike lantadene A (with a toxic and non-toxic form), both the crystalline and amorphous forms of lantadene C elicited strong hepatotoxic response in guinea-pigs associated with decrease in faecal output, feed intake, hepatomegaly, hepatic injury at the cellular and subcellular level, and increase in plasma bilirubin, and acid phosphatase activity. All the clinical signs, hepatic lesions, and changes in blood plasma typified Lantana toxicity.

Water extracts of leaves of L. camara showed antifungal activity against rice blast (Piricularia oryzae) and brown spot of rice (Helminthosporium oryzae) in vitro, and antibiotic activity against gram-positive bacteria.

The crude extract of L. camara flowers is toxic against cotton stainer (Dysdercus cingulatus), housefly (Musca domestica) and corn weevil (Sitophilus zeamais). The oil from L. camara flowers is toxic to cotton stainer, housefly, corn weevil, black army worm (Spodoptera exempta) and lesser grain borer (Rhizopertha dominica). Flower extracts of L. camara showed a repellent effect against Aedes mosquitoes.

Adulterations and substitutes

Lantadene A is identical to rehmanic acid isolated from Lippia rehmanii Pears.


  • Herbs or shrubs, sometimes subscandent, usually subscabrous and hirtous-pubescent or tomentose with simple hairs.
  • Leaves opposite, sometimes in whorls of 3, simple, dentate, often rugose, petiole usually present; stipules absent.
  • Inflorescence a dense cylindrical spike or contracted to form heads, usually axillary, pedunculate.
  • Flowers bisexual, sessile, borne in the axil of solitary bracts, which are often ovate, acuminate, and subimbricate or spreading; calyx small, membranous, truncate or sinuate-dentate; corolla with a cylindrical, slender tube, actinomorphic or obscurely 2-lipped, 4-5-fid, lobes broadly obtuse or retuse, spreading, red, yellow or white often fading to other colours; stamens 4, didynamous, inserted at about the middle of the corolla tube, included, anthers ovate; ovary superior, 2-locular with 1 ovule in each cell, style usually short, stigma rather thick, oblique or sublateral.
  • Fruit drupaceous, the exocarp subfleshy, endocarp hard, 2-celled or splitting in 2 parts.
  • Seeds exalbuminous.

Growth and development

The Lantana species in Malesia are evergreen and flower throughout the year. The flowers are mainly pollinated by moths and butterflies. The seeds are dispersed by fruit-eating birds.

Other botanical information

Lantana is closely related to Lippia and Verbena and placed in the subfamily Verbenoideae. Various authors disagree whether the observed variation in growth habit, armature of the branches, indumentum of the leaves and changes in flower colour during anthesis of L. camara and L. trifolia is sufficient support for a further subdivision of these taxa in varieties or formae.


Lantana prefers rather open not too moist habitats, and occurs naturally from latitude 45°N to 45°S. As open habitats are often man-induced, some species have spread as a weed in cropped land and infested abandoned fields and pastures. L. camara is somewhat shade-tolerant and can become the dominant understorey in open forests or in tropical tree crops. Moderately fertile and well-drained soils are favoured.

Propagation and planting

L. camara can be grown from seed but can also easily be propagated from cuttings 7.5 cm long.


When grown as a pot plant, L. camara can easily be pruned into a desirable shape.

Diseases and pests

L. camara often poses a serious problem in plantation crops and pastures. Conventional control methods such as burning, slashing and digging result in the regrowth of even more shoots. Therefore great effort has been put in finding methods for biological control. The most important biological control today is by the Lantana defoliator caterpillar Hypena strigata.

Genetic resources and breeding

As both Malesian Lantana species have a pantropical distribution as a weed, there is no risk of genetic erosion. Furthermore, both species are grown as ornamental.


The reported antitumour, antibiotic and bronchodilatatory activities of Lantana seem to justify more research, which might result in future applications in modern medicine. The potential as a biological insecticide also deserves attention. Applications for erosion control should be limited to areas where livestock numbers are low. L. camara in particular is a popular pot plant with a wide range of cultivars.


  • Achola, K.J. & Munenge, R.W., 1996. Pharmacological activities of Lantana trifolia on isolated guinea pig trachea and rat phrenic nerve diaphragm. International Journal of Pharmacognosy 34(4): 273-276.
  • Burkill, I.H., 1966. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. 2nd edition. Vol. 2. Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. pp. 1280-1283.
  • Dharma, A.P., 1981. Indonesische geneeskrachtige planten [Indonesian medicinal plants]. De Driehoek, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. pp. 141-142.
  • Holm, L.G., Plucknett, D.L., Pancho, J.V. & Herberger, J.P., 1977. The world's worst weeds. Distribution and biology. East-West Center. The University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu, United States. pp. 299-302.
  • Morton, J.S., 1981. Atlas of medicinal plants of middle America. Bahamas to Yucatan. Charles C. Thomas Publisher, Springfield, Illinois, United States. pp. 739-741, 744-745.
  • Nguyen Van Duong, 1993. Medicinal Plants of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Mekong Printing, Santa Ana, California, United States. p. 424.
  • Pan, W.D., Mai, L.T., Li, Y.J., Xu, X.L. & Yu, D.Q., 1993. Studies on the chemical constituents of the leaves of Lantana camara. Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao 28(1): 35-39. (in Chinese)
  • Quisumbing, E., 1978. Medicinal plants of the Philippines. Katha publishing Co., Quezon City, the Philippines. pp. 795-797.
  • Rwangabo, P.C., Claeys, M., Pieters, L., Corthout, J., Berghe, D.A.V. & Vlietinck, A.J., 1988. Umuhengerin, a new antimicrobially active flavonoid from Lantana trifolia. Journal of Natural Products 51(5): 966-968.
  • Sharma, O.P., Makkar, H.P., Dawra, R.K. & Negi, S.S., 1981. A review of the toxicity of Lantana camara (Linn) in animals. Clinical Toxicology 18(9): 1077-1094.

Selection of species


  • Florentina Indah Windadri & J.L.C.H. van Valkenburg