Monday, August 29, 2011

NZ Toi Toi Bush (or is it Pampas Grass?)

The native NZ Toi toi plant is often confused with an invasive Pampas Grass (Cortaderia Selloana) which was introduced into NZ from South America. The latter can be a real problem if it takes root in your garden.

The NZ Farm News website describes it as "an 'aggressive coloniser' with some female plants able to produce millions of seeds annually, which do not require pollination to germinate."

Here is a photo of a Toi toi bush growing
beside the road somewhere in NZ.
It's a very tricky plant to handle because the grassy part of the plant is all barbed like saw blades. When we were kids we used to call it "Cutty grass". You only needed to brush past it gently to receive cuts to the skin that could also be rather itchy.

Needless to say I was not keen to tackle this big Pampas bush growing on a bank at the front of my property. But it needed to go, as every time the wind picked up the seeds were blowing everywhere which would just spread the problem further.

One day I took to it with an axe and spade. It took me several days and it made a huge mess. It was horrendously difficult and even then I was not able to completely remove the stump. As I expected, it has since grown back but this time I've chosen to just ignore it.

In the mean time new pampas bushes have sprung up in the area. One of which took root next to the footpath at the bottom of the driveway. One day the council turned up with a chain saw but rather than getting rid of it completely they just gave it a trim and left it looking like this...

I thought seeing as they'd done half the job I could try and finish it off for them. But I wasn't keen on using the axe and spade like last time. Instead I hatched a cunning plan...

I tied some rope round the base and hitched it up to my tow bar. I did try digging around it to loosen it up a bit first, but it was pretty stubborn and wasn't going to come out easily. After pulling it as hard as I could one way I turned the car around and also tried pulling it in the opposite direction...

After a bit of wheel spinning on the road along with the smell of burning rubber and a few clouds of smoke it finally gave way, much to the amusement of one of my neighbours.

Considering the effort needed to pull out a relatively small bush at ground level I'm at a bit of a loss regarding the big one that's grown back on the bank.

One day I rang a gardening expert to get some ideas. He took some strange delight in telling me I should pour petrol over it and set fire to it, which is probably not a bad idea... except for the power lines immediately above it! Not to mention all the surrounding vegetation and my house.

I've left it in the 'Too Hard' basket for now.


  1. We had lots of Pampas grass where I grew up in Queenstown on Tasmania's West Coast. We also called it cutty grass. I think it is declared a noxious weed here. It sure is tough stuff to remove. Maybe you need an excavator for the one in the back yard

  2. Yes, I've got a mate with a digger and have thought about getting him to come and remove it along with the 2 big Privots next to it which are also noxious weeds. Problem is, all this unwanted vegetation is helping to hold the driveway up.

    I have a plan to redevelop to whole front of my place and would have done it before now if it wasn't for the huge expense.

    So unfortunately it's going to have to stay like this for now.

  3. I've just come across your blog while doing some reading on toe toe ... Just wanted to comment to say that there is a difference between native NZ toe toe and pampas grass. Pampas grass isn't native to NZ and is considered an invasive weed which can take over. Toe toe is the NZ native and much nicer! I can't tell which one you've got (or had!) though!

  4. Thanks for the info. If the NZ toi toi is considered 'nicer' then I can only be thankful I haven't got the invasive one. At least I don't think I have.

  5. Actually what you have is pampas from South America. The easiest way to recognise Toetoe is that it flowers in spring

  6. Yes it does look like you've got a Pampas problem, not to be confused with the NZ native Toetoe (although it commonly is). Pampas can be identified by fluffier seed heads and the curly, dried out leaves at the base. Try not to give Toetoe a bad name, as it's not that bad!

  7. Thanks for the info. You could well be right about it being Pampas. The bush is flowering at the moment and has been for the last several weeks which is Autumn. I can't say I've taken note of how often it flowers throughout the year. Perhaps doing so might help to confirm its true identity.

  8. Have you solved your problem plant over the last few years? If Pampas it will have developed some height, almost a trunk and have lots of curled up dry leaves at the base looking like wood shavings. Toetoe leaves just lie flat when spent and the plant grows from ground level. Pamaps is easily killed with glyphosate (Roundup)and when dead cut away without need for digging roots out. Dead material will compost easily.

    1. Lincoln Paul you're dead on right there....we have numerous dead pampus on our land from spraying with glysophate...and they just rot away afterwards

  9. Dealing with mine now :( I swear these things would survive nuclear blasts.