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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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Friday - October 16, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Why isn't Lantana camara in NPIN?
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Why don't you have Lantana camara in your data base? It is very common here, and is in the USDA database.

ANSWER:

You're right; Lantana camara is very common in the Houston area and across the southern part of the US.  A listing in USDA Plants does not indicate nativity, however. Other plants, also common in your area, including Johnsongrass (Sorghum halapense), Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera)  and Giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta)  are all listed in the USDA Plants database.  
 
In addition to appearing in USDA Plants, all of these species have another common characteristic - they're all invasive species in Texas. While Lantana camara is not included on the list of Texas Noxious Weeds
, it is very definitely a problem weed here.  In other areas of the world, notably in Africa and Australia, Lantana camara - a native of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and northern South America - is an ecological disaster.  Australia and affected African countries allocate vast resources in a largely losing effort to fight this species.  
 
Except in the species’ native range, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is firmly and unabashedly anti-Lantana camara.  We actively discourage gardeners and land managers from planting it, maintaining it or even allowing it to exist on their lands.
 
USDA Plants designates near the top of the web page whether or not a species is native under the heading, “Native Status:
. “L48 I” means the species is introduced in the lower 48 states of the US.
 
The NPIN database includes only species native to North America (excluding Mexico).
 
Fortunately, here in Texas we have a very fine and lovely native alternative to Lantana camara and the other non-native lantanas.  Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides)
 is native to pretty much the same areas of the US that Lantana camara has invaded and is every bit as attractive and has virtually identical growth habit.  However, it is not nearly so pernicious in other parts of the world.
 

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