Few butterfly-friendly plants draw as many butterflies to my Florida butterfly garden as the endangered “Banana Lantana,” or Pineland Lantana.
Part of the excitement of cultivating a butterfly garden is being able to attract butterflies as well as help preserve the native and Florida-friendly plants.
According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pineland Lantana is an endangered woody shrub that can be found in South Carolina and Florida.
I purchased my Pineland Lantana from the Florida Native Plants nursery in Sarasota, Fla. In the summer months, I watch Eastern Tiger Swallowtails sip nectar from the delicate banana-colored blooms. Skippers are also frequent visitors.
Pineland Lantana – which has the botanical name of Lantana depressa — only grow to about 2 to 3 feet. My plant died to the ground after the winter freeze, but slowly revived as the spring warmed the ground.
The drought-tolerant plant is native to the Florida pine rocklands. Even though the plant loves the full-sun, mine grows up against a fence, adding a punch of yellow beneath a native elderberry bush with nicely contrasting purple berries and a not-so-native or drought-friendly yet glorious Angel Trumpet tree.
What many Florida gardening experts will tell you is that “full sun” just does not mean the same in the more tropical parts of the state such as the Tampa/Hillsborough County area. So don’t be afraid to plant it under small trees or shrubs.
When shopping for lantana, be careful not to purchase the invasive varieties. Make every effort to hunt down the native plants. I can testify it is well worth it. I’ve heard some critics claim lantana, when crushed, smells of cat urine. But my Banana Lantana does not seem to have an offensive smell. Like many tropical and sub-tropical plants that draw butterflies, lantana is poisonous to humans and animals so use caution.
While talking to Marina D’Abreau, an urban horticulture agent with the University of Florida’s Hillsborough County Extension, I learned about how much easier it now is for Florida gardeners to go native. D’Abreau said since Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed Senate Bill 2080 on July 1, 2009, homeowners have been able to convert their yards to Florida-friendly yards without having to worry about home association rules or ordinances. In other words, if your snooty homeowner’s association insists on the thirsty St. Augustine grass, you can tell them you’re going Florida friendly.
D’Abreau encourages proper plant choices such as picking native plants or those that don’t require a lot of water.
Many parts of Florida are still being affected by drought. Banana lantana plants are perfect because they like it dry and they provide nourishment for the butterflies that are native to the area.
For more information on D’Abreau’s work with the Extension, visit http://hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu.