Wild Sage, Beach Botany

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Previously in this column I’ve railed against the exotic Shrub Verbena (L. Camara) for its bad invasive behavior. This week I am writing about one of the good guys in the genus Lantana: the Wild Sage (Lantana involuctata). In many ways, the Wild Sage is similar to the Shrub Verbena except that it is both native and non-invasive. Wild Sage is a shrub ranging from 4 to 6 feet in height. It has multiple branches beginning at or near ground level that support elliptical to oblong toothed leaves. When the leaves are crushed the familiar Lantana pungent odor is quickly noticed. Eight to ten tubular white to pinkish flowers form a circular cluster which makes a rather attractive floral arrangement. Its fruit is purple in color when ripe.

Wild Sage is distributed in Southern Florida, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. In Florida it is found on coastal dunes, hammocks and shell mounds. Locally, it is found on Barefoot Beach, Pine Island and Mound Key. I have not seen Wild Sage anywhere on Estero Island including the Preserve. The plant would make an attractive addition to the Preserve’s Black Mangrove Forest. It would also work well in a residential landscape. Just bear in  that the leaves of the Wild Sage are poisonous.

The  specimen in the picture was found in Lee County’s Rutenberg Park.