Native to Central and South America, this plant was introduced on La Réunion around 1840 as an ornamental plant by Abbé Galabert. Since this time, it has spread in almost all open environments and in degraded forests or areas of the island that goes up to 1200 m , including the dry forest. It is still used as a decorative plant in gardens and in cities although it is significantly dissemminated by birds. A thornless, sterile variety is commonly used in landscaping.
Le Galabert is a spiky shrub capable of forming dense underbushes with bright multicolored flowering. It is aromatic and its fruits can be toxic. It is usually confused with Lantana trifolia and Lantana montevidensis.
These specie forms dense thickets which prevent the regeneration of native flora from La Réunion. It has the ability of climbing on neighboring plants in search of light. In forests in difficult conditions, it can rapidly become dominant in undergrowth thus obstructing the regeneration of native flora for several decades.
This plant is toxic to cattle (cows and sheep). Its consumption results in photosensitization with negative effects on the animals’ liver and kidneys. Lantana formations when they replace grassland areas may also increase the risk of erosion due to rainwater.Its allelopathic characteristics have negative consequences on orchard yields.
Its diffusion is facilitated by the presence on La Réunion of the Martin Triste (Acricotheres tristis), an exotic frugivorous bird.
The Galabert has no legal protection and can be eliminated without authorization. It is one of the species on the list of Invasive Exotic plants on La Réunion, which has been defined by the CBNM-CPIE (Conservatoire Botanique National des Mascarins- Centre d’Initiatives Pour l’Environnement). This species is not covered by any specific control program but is subject to local control or eradication actions.