The Pink Pampas

The pink pampas, botanically Cortaderia jubata

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.

Indubitably pampas

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.

Toetoe, or NZ austroderia

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’.

17 thoughts on “The Pink Pampas

  1. Ann Bell

    Garden centers are some of the worst continuing to sell pest species of plant. I note today that our local nursery is flogging off Bangelo palms by the dozen this Easter weekend

  2. robynkiltygardensnz

    My gosh – make any wonder you HAD to do an extra blog on this one! How extraordinary it is! I’ve never seen it before. It looks as though you have dipped the fronds in a bucket of bright pink dye or paint – but it’s all the work of Mother Nature!!

      1. Jean Griffin

        That Pink Pampas is certainly a crowd stopper, not sure that I would like it here in Sussex UK but some daft person would love it.. I prefer your ‘wilder’ look !

  3. Paddy Tobin

    Now that fits the “shocking pink” description perfectly! An irritant to the retina, as one television presenter used say about certain plants.

  4. tonytomeo

    Oh my, that is PINK! I have never seen it so pink. The foliage looks more like that of Cortaderia selloana, but the bloom is like a pink version of the Cortaderia jubata that is so aggressively naturalized here. Only sterile cultivars of Cortaderia selloana are allowed here; but they are only sterile because they are all female. They hybridize freely with naturalized Cortaderia jubata, and their progeny are not sterile. ( . . . anyway, I can get carried away on that topic like I did last time.) The naturalized Cortaderia jubata here blooms tan, with long leaves that stay low, and lay sloppily on the ground. I wrote about what is sold as ‘pink’ pampas grass, or other alternatively colored pampas grass, a while back.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This one has not been colour enhanced and clearly it can fade out to paler shades – well, I am assuming it is fading out but I will keep an eye on it over the next weeks. Presumably the pink forms are more common in parts of South America? It is usually referred to as Argentinian pampas here. Funny you should mention about colour enhancement – I was just looking at the ‘blue’ Magnolia acuminata and a whole range of enhanced photos came up.

      1. tonytomeo

        Well, in my article, I used the example of the same picture of a particular flower, but in different colors. For example, the same picture of pampas grass in pink (which actually looked convincing), purple and orange. Seriously, it was the same picture.
        Cortaderia jubata is supposed to be the most common species in the wild, but I suspect that it is more like what grows wild here, with tan bloom. The pink sort were likely a variety that was selected from them. My colleague, who happens to work sometimes with Cortaderia selloana, has seen pink Cortaderia jubata in Los Angeles, and tells me that I drive by some regularly while it is not in bloom. He says that the original was quite pink, but the progeny are between pink and tan.

  5. Susan Oliver

    Visited Abbie and Mark today – the north garden area is looking exciting – and on my way home I drove past the infamous Pink Panther Pampas – and yes – it really truly is the colour in the photo – took my own photo and was identical – have to see it to believe it – and it still looks unnatural to me !

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I think I finally have Mark convinced that it is actually that colour and not some neighbour attempting to trick us with dye! I will watch it because I wonder if it will fade fast and if that is why we haven’t noticed it before – that we just didn’t drive down that road in the week or two when it was pink. It does look very fake, I agree.

  6. Mark Judd

    Pampas grass in your frontage does of course mean you’re a swinger!!! The pinker the better…?

  7. Pingback: A road trip: from Tikorangi to Tauranga and back. Twice. | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

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