Lantana Replacement Plants
Lantana is one of our most invasive weeds in Queensland and NSW. It has replaced billions of hectares of under-story plants in woodland, eucalypt forest and dry rainforest, making these habitats unsuitable for many species of birds, insects and small mammals. It exists as a sprawling shrub (Lantana camara) and as a groundcover (Lantana montevidensis). The plants originally spread from ornamental garden plants – seeds are transported by birds that eat the fruit. Once established further spread is achieved as stems in contact with the ground develop roots. Further, the dense litter produced from these plants changes the mineral content of the soil, making it unsuitable for native species but highly suitable for further lantana growth. In spite of massive efforts to eradicate this species, its spread continues. It is a classified weed and illegal to cultivate.
For the garden, there are many suitable native shrubs with attractive foliage, flowers and/or fruit that attract a larger variety of birds than does lantana. Bushland cleared of this weed should be replaced with native species that provide both shelter and food for wildlife whilst discouraging further weed growth.
One of the many suitable lantana replacement plants, especially in shaded areas in gullies and creek lines, is the Bolwarra or native guava (Eupomatia laurina). This is a member of the laurels, one of the ancient lineages of flowering plants. A large, spreading shrub, it has glossy leaves and urn-shaped fruit which are sweet and aromatic. The fruit, when ripe, are yellow and can be used in beverages, jam and desserts.
The native mulberry (Pipturus argentus) is a fast growing, straggly shrub that is a good screening plant. It has elliptical leaves that are deep green above and silvery underneath. Between January and June small clusters of white flowers are followed by edible, small, soft, mulberry-like fruit which are sweet tasting. In addition to the birds (especially silvereyes) which feed on the fruit, this is a good plant for butterfly friendly gardens.
The hard aspen (Acronychia laevis) is a shrub that belongs to the citrus group. The shiny, ovate leaves, cream flowers and dark pink fruit makes this a very attractive plant. Experimental plantings have been made of this species for extraction of the citrus scent from the leaves for the essential oil industry. It is a good plant for water-wise gardens but does need well-drained soil, and is a fire-retardant species. The hard aspen attracts many different butterflies and the fruit is eaten by fruit doves.
Native peach (Trema tomentosa) is another fast growing species renowned for providing shelter and shade in regeneration projects and as a bird-attracting plant in gardens. Although the leaves and small, black fruit look like lantana, these are the only similarities. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillar of the speckled line-blue butterfly and the fruit, which follows small greenish flowers, is eaten by some lovely birds such as the brown cuckoo-dove, Lewin’s honey-eater, olive-backed oriole and the Australasian figbird. It will grow in most situations.
These are but a few of the plants to replace lantana that can be found at the nursery. Our staff are only too happy to help you select these and other plants for your requirements. Visit us at Paten Road, the Gap or check the website for plant availability.