Project 5 - Sytematics of Environmental Weeds

5.1: Assessing the origins and diversity of Lantana in Australia


Update - October 2008

The origins and diversity of Lantana in Australia

Biological control of invasive species has had some famous successes but has frequently met with failure. For plants, successful biological control requires the identification of phytophagous or pathogenic control agents that have an appropriate ecology and that attack the target species but not native species in the introduced range. [read more...]


Originating in the Americas, Lantana is now a serious weed of natural environments, pastures, and farmland throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. Heavy lantana infestations occur along almost the entire East coast of Australia and patchy outbreaks occur in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Biological control is the only practical method of controlling this weed, yet although many (> 41 worldwide and 28 within Australia) biocontrol agents have been applied little success has been achieved. Research is needed to determine the origins and genetics of the many Lantana varieties that have been introduced to Australia so as to properly target biocontrol agent discovery efforts.

Seeking solutions

We are conducting research on Lantana with three overarching objectives:

  1. The establishment of the identity, diversity and origins of the various forms established in this country.
  2. The production of molecular and morphological based evaluations of species and genetic diversity to assess phylogenetic relationships and implications for selection of biocontrol agents.
  3. An assessment of the amount of interpopulation/race genetic variation of this weed species within Australia and the processes that structure this variation.


We are employing a variety of molecular genetic techniques, including DNA sequencing, microsatellites and AFLPs, in order to identify genetic markers for analysis of the evolution and introduction history of lantana. We are combining this with traditional morphometric taxonomy and ecological approaches in order to identify biologically important traits. We intend to adapt and employ these techniques for use in the study of the origins and relationships of the progenitors of other introductions to Australia and the implications for selection of biocontrol agents.


The project is using the collection resources of the Australian National Herbarium and its partner agencies together with those of weed management agencies. We maintain an active collaboration with entomologist Dr Michael Day of QLD Department of Primary Industries.

Tools for Decision Makers

Our work will be published in international peer reviewed journals for use by scientists working on invasive species and invasibility characteristics. We will also provide input into the design of web-based keys, field guides, and technical notes for use by land managers.

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