Indigenous and non-indigenous Lantanas

There is always some confusion as to which Lantanas are invasive aliens and which may be safely grown in South Africa. Despite some disquieting reports of nurseries claiming that the Lantana they are selling is indigenous to South Africa, I have yet to see any indigenous Lantanas on sale at any nursery I have visited or researched. I do hope the following will help to clarify the matter.

Indigenous lantana

The most commonly known of our indigenous Lantanas is probably Lantana Rugosa, a straggly shrublet with small mauve florets. The common name, ‘Bird’s brandy’, refers to the partiality that birds have for the delightful little purple berries. The berries are edible with a slightly sweetish taste. There are only six or seven Lantanas indigenous to South Africa and Africa, none of them being really suitable for garden cultivation as they tend to be woody and do not respond well to pruning. However, it is useful to have a bush or two in a quiet corner if you are trying to attract birds to the garden.

Lantana rugosa
Lantana rugosa
Lantana rugosa

Non-indigenous Lantana camara – a category 1b invasive alien.

Living as I do in the Eastern Cape, where Lantana camera has invaded whole hillsides and hedgerows, I have become saddened by the amount of natural bush that this plant has destroyed, and it just keeps spreading. There are also hybrids (such as the yellow low growing one which is a cross between Lantana camera and Lantana montevidensis, both from South America), still being sold in some South African nurseries but the seeds of these hybrids revert back to Lantana camera which are eaten by birds and the scourge continues.

The only non-indigenous lantanas that may lawfully be grown are hybrids that do not set seed, and the pure strain of Lantana montevidensis, which reportedly does not set seed in our country.

Government legislation for category 1b invaders, the group in which Lantana camara has been included, states:

"Invasive species requiring compulsory control as part of an invasive species control program. Remove and destroy. This includes all seed producing species or seed producing hybrids of Lantana that are non-indigenous to South Africa."

Lantana camara
Lantana camara
Lantana camara


Hi there

I hear that mulberries are now also a declared weed :/ how horrible - to ban growing an edible crop and forage tree (chickens, goats, sheep , Horses) in a country with such poverty and need for easy-to-grow food crops. What I'd like to know is: are ALL varieties of Mulberry trees now "illegal" to grow? I would love to grow Morus nigra (black mulberry) for my chickens and our family ( I love eating mulberries), but have no idea where to find it? Any advice?

Hi Annelle

I understand your concern for the loss of a forage crop for domesticated animals. However, the concern of the Agricultural Research Council is the protection of our native flora and fauna.

The white mulberry - Morus alba - has been on the declared weeds and invasives list for many years, and for good reason. Being spread by birds, the trees become invasive in certain areas of the veld, growing in dense stands that kill off our natural vegetation. This results in the loss of most of the indigenous plants with the knock-on effect on the wild life of the area: necessary food sources are not available so small critters either die or have to cross into the territories of other animals. This in turn causes overpopulation of some species, not to mention the stress of fighting to make a space for themselves in a new hostile environment. Plant, insect and animal life are severely affected and areas of pristine veld are lost forever.

You will be pleased to know that the black mulberry, Morus nigra, which is the better fruit tree of the two, is not subject to legislation.

Finding one is a problem, depending on where you live. I did find one nursery in Gauteng ( that may have the plant. You will need to do some serious searching.

Kind regards

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