Lantana bushes (Lantana camara) are invasive plants. From urban to rural, forest to non forest, they are there, providing a good indicator of disturbance. Yes, Lantana likes open, unshaded habitats, just like butterflies. The birds like the fruits, and the bees and butterflies pollinated the all-year-round flowers. The seeds are germinated at each time of the year. Nobody likes to eat the leaves as they contain alkaloid. So, basically, they are thrived and easily survived. Native species of Tropical America, Lantana is positioned as one of the ten most invasive plants in the world.
In the forest, Lantana is usually occurred close to river banks, forest gaps and forest edges. I like walking along the forest edge for a nice birdwatching or butterfly watching. Forest edge is a good place to learn and get familiar with birds and butterflies of the area. On the forest edge of Lambusango forest, Buton island, Southeast Sulawesi, I got extremely satisfied with my butterfly list and pictures. On a nice sunny morning, I can see many different butterflies. Many strong and long-distance flyers such as the Swallowtails (Papilionidae) sometimes would go down and visit the Lantana flowers. The Swift peacock (Papilio peranthus), the Green-spotten triangle (Graphium agamemnon), the Rippon’s birdwing (Troides hypolitus) were common visitors of these variable-colored plants.
Other visitors are mostly open-areas-preferred butterflies. Two cruisers are in Lambusango forest, the Common cruiser (Vindula erota) and Erichson’s cruiser (Vindula dejone). At least, to my knowledge, the Erichson’s cruiser was more attracted to the Lantana whereas the other cruiser would prefer the sandy beaches of the river banks. There are also the Blanchard’s wood nymph (Ideopsis vitrea) and the Young tiger (Ideopsis juventa). However, I’m pretty sure that I won’t see any Blanchard’s ghosts (Idea blanchardii) on Lantana bushes. Not just because they don’t like the flower, but mostly because they prefer closed forest.
Biological control for invasive Lantana has actually been explored. Insects have been used but sometimes are ineffective. Previous attempts used fungal pathogens. Walking along the forest edge flourished with Lantana is enjoyable, just because we can see many different butterflies. But, to think about the Lantana as invasive species was also depressing. I guess I’d rather see the primary forest maintained since at least the closed-canopy would prevent invasion of this and other alien species. To see the Blanchard’s ghost in the deep of the forest is more rewarding……