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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - July 19, 2007

From: Columbia, SC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Toxicity of leaves and berries of lantana
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants!!! I live in Columbia, SC and have fallen in love with the Lantana or Lanta plants. I have a lot of them because of their rapid growth. My question is -- in addition to all the beautiful flowers and hummingbirds they attract, the bushes are producing berries -- a dark blue purple. Are these safe to eat? Thank you

ANSWER:

Lantana camara (lantana) is on several poisonous plants databases: the Poisonous Plants Informational Database from Cornell University, Poisonous Plants of North Carolina from North Carolina State University, the Texas Toxic Plants database from Texas Cooperative Extension Service and Texas A&M, the Plants Toxic to Animals database from the University of Illinois Veterinary Medicine Library, and the Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System. Most of these databases deal with the agricultural aspects of plant toxicity, but all agree that the leaves and green berries are toxic to livestock and are dangerous to humans as well. It seems to be the green berries that are potentially the most toxic for humans since most people wouldn't consider eating the leaves. The Cornell University site has an account of South African children eating ripe berries with apparently no ill effects, but Mr. Smarty Plants certainly wouldn't experiment with those ripe berries to see if they were OK to eat! Apparently, birds are unaffected by the triterpenoids that affect large mammals since birds are the major dispersal agents of Lantana sp. seeds.

They are beautiful plants and the hummingbirds and butterflies love them. Enjoy them—just don't eat the berries!


Lantana camara

 

 

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