Red Sage Yellow Sage – Lantana camara

Lantana eats me
in my dreams.
Its aromatic leaves
creep and grasp.
Sandpaper stems
pull beads of blood
from cringing flesh.
Its flowers mock me
pinkly, prettily.

By Nathalie Buckland

(Read the entire poem at http://dangerouslypoetic.org/poetry/lantana/)

 

 

This native of the American tropics often forms thickets and can become invasive in the proper climate, such as Florida where it is listed as a Category I Invasive Exotic Species. It is also considered invasive in East Africa, South Africa, Madagascar, tropical Asia, Australia, New Zealand,, southern Europe, the Middle East, southeastern & western USA, and many islands of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. But here in Zone 7a it is an annual and dies away with the frost.

These small, perennial shrubs have leaves that are fragrant when crushed and the most enticing flowers arranged in flat topped clusters made up of many small flowers of white, pink or yellow that change into orange or red. The new buds are in the center of the flower head with the youngest, most recently opened flowers radiating from the center and being yellow. Then the flowers on the outside edges of the flowers turn red as they age.

These beautiful flowers have another problem beyond the ability to be invasive, and that is their Toxicity. The plant contains Triterpenes in the green, unripe berries and the leaves. If eaten it can be fatal, also for sensitive people there can be skin irritation from the leaves. The signs and symptoms of poisoning for humans and horses, cattle and sheep are vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, and labored breathing.

Despite its toxicity the plant is used in herbal medicine and has been cultivated for hundreds of years! The leaves and roots have been popular in ‘folk’ remedies as an anti-inflammatory, tonic and expectorant. The totally ripe berries are eaten in many places….but great caution must be exercised with children…there is already a case in Florida of a child helping themselves and not surviving!

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