Main article by Eden Fearnside, Year 4, Hunua School
Further information by Julia Fearnside
Hi, my name is Eden and I am 7 years old. I want to share some information about a weed called pampas. Pampas is an impostor weed that looks a lot like toetoe. When my family drove around the countryside, I liked looking at the fluffy white grasses. We thought this was New Zealand toetoe (often misspelt as toi toi). When I looked on the internet, I was so surprised to find out this grass was not toetoe! It is called pampas and it comes from South America.
Pampas is bad because it is an invasive weed. It has been known as a pest plant since 2001. It was introduced to New Zealand by early settlers. Pampas is a tussock grass that spreads very quickly and grows quickly. One female plant can make millions of seeds. These can spread up to 25km! Pampas takes over an area of land and other native plants can’t grow. It has lots of dry parts which make it a fire risk. It can be a home for pests like rats, rabbits, mice and possums.
Differences between Toetoe and Pampas
There are differences between pampas and toetoe grasses. The main differences are that toetoe flowers are light, golden yellow. The flowerheads and stems are drooping. The main features of pampas flowers are that the flower heads are thicker, fluffier and point straight up. They are white, cream, pink or purple in colour.
Pampas and toetoe plants also flower at different times of the year. You can see toetoe flowers during spring and summer. Pampas starts flowering in Autumn, but I have noticed old seed heads all year round.
- Large plant that can grow more than 5 metres high
- Pampas flowers are fluffy and white, cream, pink or purple
- The flowers and stems stick straight upwards
- Pampas leaves have sharp, jagged edges
- Pampas leaves snap when you break them
- Pampas leaves are dark green with one big vein in the middle
- The old, dead leaves turn brown and curl up at the base making them a fire risk and home for pests
- Pampas starts flowering in Autumn
- When some pampas seed heads get old, they can droop downwards and become creamy brown making them look similar to toetoe. But don’t be fooled by pesky pampas – look for other features on the plant.
- Scientific name of pampas species start with Cortaderia
These are two species, common pampas and purple pampas
Toetoe is a symbol of Aotearoa. It is our country’s largest native tussock grass. It can only be found in New Zealand (endemic). Toetoe can be seen at places like sand dunes, cliffs, swamps and wetlands. There are five species of native toetoe in New Zealand. In the past, Māori used toetoe for making medicines, for walls and roofs in houses, and mats and kete (baskets). Toetoe is part of New Zealand’s heritage.
- Smaller plant that can grow up to 3 metres tall
- Toetoe flowers are golden or cream in colour
- The flowers and stems droop downwards
- Toetoe flowers are delicate, pale gold and curving
- Toetoe leaves do not snap when you break them
- Toetoe leaves are light to mid green with sharp edges and have a white, waxy layer at the bases
- Toetoe leaves have several obvious veins on either side of the large middle vein
- The old, dead leaves on toetoe, do not curl up at the base
- Toetoe starts flowering in spring and early summer
- Scentific name of the five toetoe species start with Austroderia
If you think you have toetoe in your area, it could actually be pampas! You can research on the internet how to get rid of pesky pampas. Please help to spread this information and not pampas! Thank you.
Eden Fearnside, 2022
Here are some useful websites about pampas and toetoe. If you find pampas on your own land, please research before removing pampas. If you find pampas on public land (Department of Conservation or Council), please let your local council or the Department of Conservation know where it is.
Removal tips can be found on these links:
Other useful links: