Austroderia species

(previously known as Cortaderia species)


Cutty grass; used in weaving, musical instruments, roof-thatching, tukutuku panels, kite-making and for medicinal purposes by early Māori. Five different species grow across New Zealand, and planting the best species for your area is important. Toetoe is easily confused with Pampas, which is an exotic pest plant.

1.   Austroderia fulvida         1.5m high x 1m wide. Flower spikes to 4.5m high.
_____North Island. South of Auckland is the larger form, north of Auckland mainly the smaller form.
2.   Austroderia richardii       2m x 2m. Flower spikes 3m high.
_____South Island, and east of Palliser Bay near Wellington
3.   Austroderia splendens    2.5m x 2.5m. Flower spike to over 6m high.
_____North Island, from the Three Kings Islands south to about Waikawau in the west and Ohiwa Harbour in the east
4.   Austroderia toetoe           2.5m wide x 3m high. Flower spikes to 5m high.
_____North Island, western Waikato down to Wellington. Naturalised a little on Waiheke Island.
5.   Austroderia turbaria         2m x 2m. Flower spikes to 2.5m high. Prefers damp.
_____Chatham and Pitt Islands

TOETOE                                                                                    PAMPAS
Flower heads golden yellow, usually drooping                          Flower heads erect, dense, usually white, pink or purplish
Leaves with distinct veins between midrib and leaf edge         No distinct veins between midrib and leaf edge
Leaves do not snap easily                                                         Leaves snap easily when given a sharp tug
Leaf bases are white and waxy                                                 Leaf bases neither white nor waxy
Dead leaves wither, and hang down                                          Dead leaves curl like wood shavings

Popular for stabilising banks, screening out poor views, creating garden rooms, for low shelter-belts, and as a nurse crop in wetlands. Best effect when planted in multiples. Wind and water help bring out the flowing character of Toetoe.

Prefers full sun, and almost any watering regime once established. Tolerates salt winds; and harsh conditions only keep the plant more tightly growing. Dislikes salt winds. Most soils are fine as long as they’re not waterlogged. Where conditions aren’t harsh enough to keep the mat tight, trim in spring with shears or a lawnmower.

Broad-leaved Bush Tussock (Chionochloa conspicua) – smaller than 1m, and leaf sheaths are dark brown and hairy.
Pampas (Cortaderia selloana & C. jubata) – see comparison chart above.
Miniature Toetoe (Chionochloa flavicans) – Much smaller, at 1m x 1m after years. Creamy-lime plumes.

Landscare Research – Toetoe
Taranaki Education Resource – Toetoe




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