What is it?
This smelly South American scrambler is happy sneaking its way through, under and over whatever plants and trees get in its way. It has brittle stems and hairy oval leaves that are wrinkled with toothed edges. Conspicuous flat flower heads with many tiny tubular flowers, each cream, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple or mixtures of these, are present all year round. Small, clustered, berry-like fruits, green ripening to juicy purple-black, contain one small pale seed per fruit. All parts of the plant are poisonous to stock.
Why is it so wicked?
Lantana produces lots of bird-spread seed, lives a long time, and forms dense thickets that excluding other species. Any stem that touches the ground can take root, forming a new plant if it is broken off. Lantana is also allelopathic (produce toxins that poison the soil around it) so other species cannot replace it, and is poisonous to stock. It can grow almost anywhere and doesn't mind moderate shade, meaning that it can move into bush areas. It's not good with frost, however, so it is mainly a weed of warmer areas.
What can you do about it?
Small plants can be removed by hand, making sure that all stem and root fragments are taken to a refuse transfer station for disposal. Larger plants can be but down and stumps treated with a suitable herbicide, or foliage can be sprayed - check out www.weedbusters.org.nz for more details.
For a native alternative, try taurepo (Rhabdothamnus solandrii) or Northern rata (Metrosideros robusta). Good non-native alternatives that aren't invasive include flame-of-the-woods (Ixora coccinea) and correas (Correa pulchella, Correa reflexa)