Spring Flowers, Tucson, Part 37: Color-Changing Flowers! (Lantana camara)

Lantana camara is actually much more interesting than I’d assumed. First of all, I’d been pretty confused about what brought about the shift in color. They’d started out mostly yellow and then I noticed they were suddenly mostly pink. I was hypothesizing it had something to do with temperature because there was a dramatic shift over the week or so when they started blooming. Turns out new blooms are yellow; once they’ve been pollinated, they turn pink. What helpful flowers! ‘Don’t waste your time, dear Bees! Come to these yellow flowers!’ I suppose that gets more potentially viable pollen into the right flowers at the right time, instead of all the good pollen being rubbed off on flowers already fertilized. These apparently come in different colors, but all the ones I’ve seen around me are the same as this one.

Second, they reminded me of perennials I’ve planted in Michigan, so I figured this was just an escapee from a cultivated plant. They also reminded me of Butterfly Bush (Buddleia), same flowers; similar leaves; I’ve planted globular yellow Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia globosa, native to Argentina and Chile)…. But apparently these area a different species. They’re nearly native: they come from the tropical Americas and have spread from there mostly along coastlines. I see them in many yards around Tucson; in my own yard, in addition to this one, there’s a much younger second bush a few feet away and a third, new this season, a few feet from the second huddled against a low-growing palm. I’m fairly certain that all three of these are descendant from a much larger Lantana that got chopped down (along with nearly every other living thing on this property before I signed the lease), but this, too, is sending up fresh shoots!

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