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Published: 2003-04-15 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is raising awareness of invasive pampas grass in the Region and wants to give landowners advice on effective control methods.

The tall grass with the distinctive fluffy flowers is often mistaken for the native toe toe – but the Regional Council wants it totally cleared from the southern part of the Region. Taupo, Rotorua, South Waikato, Otorohanga, Waitomo and Matamata Piako Districts and the Hauraki Plains have a total control rule under the Regional Pest Management Strategy. This same rule is being extended to Waipa District, Hamilton City and the eastern part of Waikato District from July 1.

Before the rule begins in this new area Environment Waikato wants to ensure people can recognise the plant, where it is growing and remove it now instead of later.

Pampas, from South America, was originally planted for shelter, hedging, as an ornamental garden plant, for erosion control and fodder for cattle. Initially only the female was supposed to be brought into the country to ensure it would not produce viable seed and could be controlled. However, hermaphrodite plants were accidentally introduced and pampas began to spread.

A very invasive grass, it forms dense impenetrable stands and reduces visibility on roadsides, and along railways. It smothers native plants and in newly planted forests it competes with young pine trees. Pampas is also a fire risk and provides habitat for animal pests.

Common pampas has fluffy white flowers which appear in mid-March. Purple pampas begins flowering in late January and has purple tinted flower heads, which turn to brown later in the season. The flower heads of both the common and purple pampas stand straight upright while the native toe toe has fewer flower heads, which are less fluffy but droop more. Toe toe begins flowering November and continues into January.

Pampas grows freely on disturbed ground, such as quarries, scrub and wasteland areas, forestry and in burnt over and regenerating areas. Seed is distributed in road aggregate transported from quarries, mines and stockpiles or spread by wind and animals.

Common pampas and purple pampas are widespread throughout the Waikato Region, with numerous infestations in the Franklin, Thames-Coromandel and Waikato Districts.

Where the plant is used as hedging an exemption may be granted so it can be mowed, contained and prevented from seeding annually.

Environment Waikato is encouraging progressive removal of all plants – but it’s a big job. Effective control requires total removal of rhizome fragments and the crown as they will quickly re-establish if moisture is available. Effective control can be achieved by spraying the foliage with a suitable herbicide. The Council wants people to contact their plant pest officer on 0800 BIOSECURITY (0800 246732) so plants can be identified and work begun to remove them.