Pampas grasses

Cortaderia spp.

 Pink Pampas Grass

Pink Pampas Grass. Image credit: Forest and Kim Starr

Pink Pampas Grass Cortaderia jubata / Common Pampas Grass Cortaderia selloana

Seeding Pampas grasses include forms of Cortaderia selloana and C. jubata that are naturalised in SA, having been cultivated for ornament since the 19th century. Pink Pampass Grass was introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant in confusion with Common Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana).

Toe-toe Cortaderia richardii (or New Zealand Pampas Grass)

Toe-toe or New Zealand Pampas Grass is a dense tussock-forming, perennial grass up to 5 m in height that has become invasive in forests of Tasmania. It is not known to occur in this State.

These Cortaderia spp. are declared under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004 (NRM Act).

Descriptions

Seeding Pink and Common Pampas grasses have relatively thick flowering stems (up to 3 cm across) are upright (i.e. erect) and grow 2-6 m tall. They are hollow and greyish-green to yellowish-green in colour. The large leaves consist of a short-leaf sheath, which clasps the stem at the base, and a spreading leaf blade. Leaf sheaths leaves are 2 to 3 cm wide and have sharp serrated edges. Several flowering stalks, 2 to 4 m tall with plumes 30 to 90 cm long emerge from the tussocks between January and March, plumes are initially pink but fade to dull grey with age.

Plumes can produce up to 100,000 windborne seeds, seeds germinate in spring, with seedlings developing rapidly, producing several tillers and rhizomes.

Toe-toe establishes a large root system up to 3.5 m deep and spreads from seed and rhizomes (root segments). It is dependent on seed for propagation, and seedling establishment appears to be their most critical life stage. The seeds have no dormancy and are short-lived, probably no longer than one year. Seedlings need reliable moisture in their first year to establish. Toe-toe does particularly well in wetter conditions, making wetlands along rivers and inlets and wet, disturbed heathlands especially vulnerable to infestation. Common sites of infestation are roadsides, road cuttings, quarry faces, sand dunes, mine spoil, new forest plantations and burnt or mechanically disturbed bushland. It can thrive in low-fertility situations and also tolerate waterlogged conditions.

Toe-toe produces large quantities of seed, of the order of 240,000 viable seeds per plant, and may spread up to 25 km by wind.

NOTE: Currently Toe-toe, is not known to occur in South Australia.

Differences between the three species

Common Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) is very similar to Pink Pampas Grass (C. jubata) and Toe-toe or New Zealand Pampas Grass (C. richardii).

These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

Common Pampas Grass has relatively dense and very large seed-heads (25-100 cm long) that are usually whitish or silvery in colour when young. Its leaves are usually somewhat bluish-green or greyish-green in colour and have a very prominent mid-vein.

Common Pampas Grass is also relatively similar to Giant Reed (Arundo donax) and Common Reed (Phragmites australis). However, both of these species produce seed-heads at the top of stems that have numerous joints with alternately arranged leaves.

Pink Pampas Grass has relatively dense and very large seed-heads (30-90 cm long) that are usually pinkish or purplish in colour when young. Its leaves are usually bright green or dark green in colour and have a very prominent mid-vein.

Toe-toe has relatively sparse seed-heads (30-60 cm long) that are usually whitish or pale brown in colour when young. Its leaves are usually somewhat bluish-green or greyish-green in colour, have a prominent mid-vein and also have distinct secondary veins.  

Impacts

  • invasive weeds of native vegetation
  • highly competitive and can invade intact bushland
  • more likely to infest disturbed sites including burnt out bushland, roadsides and quarries
  • large, long-lived tussocks displace native plants and compete for water
  • tussocks are hardy and very drought tolerant
  • create a fire hazard through the large build-up of dead, flammable foliage within the plant clumps
  • tussocks tolerate being burnt and can resprout after fire
  • infestations can impede access in forestry operations
  • tussocks provide shelter for foxes, rabbits and other vermin
  • sharply serrated leaves can cause cuts to skin leaving irritating welts
  • produce large volumes of pollen which can cause hay fever and exacerbate asthma conditions. 

Distribution for Pink and Common Pampass grasses

  • native to South America
  • established in the Australian Capital Territory, central coast of New South Wales, Tasmania and southern Victoria
  • the Mount Lofty Ranges provide ideal habitat and are considered highly vulnerable to invasion, already they have colonised wasteland and watercourses at sites in the central hills of the Mount Lofty Ranges
  • significant infestations are present at Horsnell Gully, Eagle Quarry, Stonyfell Quarry and Montacute
  • prefer open, sunny conditions, but also tolerate waterlogging
  • grow well in nutrient-poor soils.

How to control these weeds

  • effective control programs will involve chemical and physical measures
  • a range of herbicides are effective and can be used in combination with fire and physical removal of tussocks
  • for advice on chemical control techniques contact your nearest Natural Resources Centre
  • refer to the 'Weed control handbook for declared plants in South Australia' for advice on chemical control. You can find it on the Biosecurity SA website.

Declarations

The following sections of the NRM Act apply to each species in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region

Sections of the NRM Act

Common and Pink Pampas species

Toe-toe

175(1) Prohibiting entry to area

X

X

175(2) Prohibiting movement on public roads

X

X

177(1) Prohibiting sale of the plant

X

X

177(2) Prohibiting sale of contaminated goods

X

X

180 Requiring notification of infestations

X

X

182(1) Landowners to destroy the plant on their properties

 

X

182(2) Landowners to control the plant on their properties

X

 

185 Recovery of control costs on adjoining road reserves

X

X

More information

For more detailed information on Pink Pampas Grass download the fact sheet.

Please contact us for advice and assistance with controlling these pampas grasses.