Morphological and cytological comparisons of eight varieties of trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) grown in Florida.
Trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) is a popular low-growing ornamental plant valued for its heat and drought tolerance and continuous purple or white flowering throughout much of the year. Recently, trailing lantana was predicted to be invasive by the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida, and therefore not recommended for use. All cultivars fall under this designation unless proven otherwise. Eight trailing lantana varieties were obtained from wholesale growers and naturalized populations found in Texas and Australia. Plants were propagated vegetatively, finished in 4-inch pots, and planted under field conditions to determine morphological and cytological differences among varieties. Australian trailing lantana differed morphologically from the other varieties in its smaller habit, leaves (which had serrate-crenate leaf margins, and fewer appressed hairs), heavy fruiting, and cold sensitivity (observational reduced growth and flowering during winter months). Nuclear DNA content analysis suggests that Australian trailing lantana is likely a tetraploid and all other varieties evaluated were likely triploids with high levels of sterility. Pollen stainability of Australian trailing lantana was moderately high (58.83%), whereas pollen production was rarely observed in all other varieties. Results support that there are two forms of trailing lantana, the U.S. varieties distinguished by their leaf and flower morphology, ploidy level, and the absence of fruit and viable pollen.