Lantana is a heavily branched shrub that can grow as compact clumps, dense thickets and as a scrambling and climbing vine. The stems are square with small, recurved prickles along the edges. The leaves are bright green above, paler beneath, about 6 cm long, with rounded, toothed edges. Leaves grow opposite one another along the stem.
Flowers appear most of the year in clustered compact heads about 2.5 cm in diameter. Flower colours vary from pale cream to yellow, white, pink, orange, red, lilac and purple. Many lantana forms are poisonous to livestock. The toxic components in lantana include the triterpene acids, lantadene A (rehmannic acid), lantadene B and their reduced forms. Most cases of lantana poisoning occur in animals newly introduced into areas where toxic lantana grows. Animals bred on such country rarely show signs of poisoning.