I think I might do an extra post about the pink pampas, I said to Mark this morning. He immediately burst into the opening bars of the Pink Panther theme which others of a similar age are likely to remember as well as we do.
Pink Panthers aside, I was a bit surprised that I had not previously noticed the pink pampas on the roadside bank of a neighbour down the road and around a corner. It is Very Pink, so much so that it looks as though it has been dyed.
South American pampas is not such a common sight here these days on account of it being on the National Pest Plant Accord and banned from commercial propagation and sale. I think it may even have had a compulsory removal order on it for a few years to try and curb its spreading ways. It became very popular as a farm windbreak a few decades ago – cheap, quick growing and edible for stock so they could keep it in check. It was a shame the stock could not control the airborne seeds and, given the razor-sharp leaves, I am surmising they probably only ate it if they were very hungry. Pampas also adds greatly to the fire risk in summer or autumn droughts.
The few in evidence these days are testimony to its persistent weediness. If not kept in check, they will spread further.
The pink or purple forms are Cortaderia jubata while the creamy white fluffy plumes are Cortaderia selloana so different species, but both South American. New Zealanders often confuse them with our native toetoe grass which used to be classified as a member of the cortaderia family but has now been moved to the austroderia family. We have five different species of toetoe which are native to this country.
They are actually quite easy to tell apart. The toetoe flowers in spring, holding its ageing flowers through summer whereas the pampas flowers in autumn. The toetoe has arching stems and the flowers all fall to the lower side, somewhat like tasselling or fringing. The pampas holds its flowers upright and they are fluffy plumes all round like feather dusters. Anything pink or purple is a pampas.
The bottom line is that pampas is bad in this country, toetoe belongs here. That is still a startling synthetic shade of pink pampas down the road, though. These days, I sniffily describe such things by the epithet of ‘novelty plants’.