Pampas grass (Cortaderia species)

Pampas grass is a very tall, clumpy grass with fluffy flower heads. It competes with native vegetation and is a fire hazard.

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How does this weed affect you?

Pampas grass:

  • outcompetes native vegetation
  • is a fire hazard
  • harbours vermin
  • could threaten forestry
  • is not an agricultural weed. It is readily grazed and does not establish in cropping systems.

What does it look like?

Pampas grass grows in clumps about 1 – 1.5 m across, with fluffy flower heads on tall stems. Common pampas grass is up to 6 m tall when in flower. Pink pampas grass is up to 4 m tall when in flower.  

Leaves are:

  • finely serrated on the edges
  • upright and arched if it is common pampas
  • arching with leaf tips touching the ground if it is pink pampas
  • with a leaf sheath that is:
    • without a line up the middle (midrib)
    • smooth or slightly hairy if it is common pampas
    • very hairy if it is pink pampas.

Flower heads are:

  • white, pink or mauve, and present from mid-March to late May on common pampas grass
  • pink when young, fading to dark brown, and present from January to late March on pink pampas.

Roots are:

  • up to 3.5 m deep.

Similar looking plants

Common and pink pampas grass looks like New Zealand pampas grass (Cortaderia richardii). New Zealand pampas grass flower heads are yellow to gold, and present from October to January. Its leaf sheath has a distinct line up the middle (a midrib). New Zealand pampas grass does not currently grow in NSW but could invade.

Where is it found?

Pampas grass has naturalised in bushland on the Central Coast and in some areas of the Central Tablelands. It is a major weed in Sydney. There are lots of small populations on the coastal plains of the north coast of NSW. It is spreading across land disturbed by coal mining to the west of Newcastle.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Pampas grass prefers open, sunny locations and can grow in low-fertility soil. It tolerates waterlogging and can infest mangroves, riverbanks, and heathlands. It tends to establish in roadsides, quarries, sand dunes, mine spoil, new forest plantations, and burnt and disturbed bushland.

Distribution map

How does it spread?

By seed

Wind spreads the seed. Garden plants are often the source of new infestations.

Common pampas grass has female and hermaphrodite plants. The female plants produce more seeds if they are pollinated by a hermaphrodite plant.  Pink pampas grass plants are all female and don’t need to be pollinated.

By plant parts

Pampas grasses can spread out via rhizomes (underground stems).

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Control

Controlling pampas grass needs to consider that:

  • plants can produce up to 100,000 seeds per flower head
  • seeds can spread to a 25 km radius
  • plants are best removed before they set seed.

In summer, pampas grass can be important shelter for native wildlife. Snakes such as the diamond python may lay eggs in the grass clumps.  Avoid controlling pampas grass in summer to protect wildlife.

Pasture management

Grazing

Grazing (temporary, used in low-risk areas)

Graze pampas grass when it is young, before it becomes too abrasive. Grazing can prevent flowers from developing and setting seed.

Physical removal

Physical removal is ideal wherever possible. Plants are easier to remove when the soil is damp.

Hand weeding

Remove plants when they are small. Make sure to remove all the crown and root system, which spreads out from the plants. Wear long sleeves and gloves as protection from the abrasive leaves.

Mechanical removal

On larger plants, remove seed heads first and place them in a plastic bag for disposal. Then slash the plant and dig out the crown and roots.

Chemical control

Use herbicides in low-risk areas. Do not use herbicides in high-risk areas like wetlands, conservation areas, or near waterways. Do not spray plants stressed by drought or frost. Use follow-up treatments on regrowth.

On larger plants:

  • slash the plant to reduce the foliage
  • dispose of the slashed plant material
  • allow some foliage to grow back
  • spray to wet thoroughly with a recommended herbicide to wet all the leaf surfaces.

You can also use fire to prepare for spraying. Burn plants, allow them to recover, then spray with herbicide.

Weed wipers

Use weed wipers to control smaller plants (less than 40 cm).

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


Glyphosate 360 g/L (Roundup®)
Rate: 1.0 or 1.3 L per 100 L of water
Comments: Actively growing plants, before flowering, spring to autumn. Use higher rate on plants over 1 m high.
Withholding period: Nil.
Herbicide group: M, Inhibitors of EPSP synthase
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Greater Sydney Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Land managers prevent spread from their land where feasible. Land managers reduce the impact on priority assets. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment.
This Regional Recommended Measure applies to Cortaderia jubata (pink pampas grass)
Hunter
Exclusion zone: Upper Hunter local government area. Core infestation area: Port Stephens, Maitland, Cessnock, Lack Macquarie, Newcastle and MidCoast local government areas.
Regional Recommended Measure*
Whole region: The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Exclusion zone: The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. Land managers should mitigate the risk of the plant being introduced to their land. Core infestation area: Land managers should mitigate spread from their land. Land managers to reduce impacts from the plant on priority assets.
North Coast Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment.
This Regional Recommended Measure applies to Cortaderia selloana and Cortaderia jubata (pink pampas grass)
South East Regional Recommended Measure*
Land managers should mitigate the risk of new weeds being introduced to their land. The plant should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant. The plant should not be bought, sold, grown, carried or released into the environment. Notify local control authority if found.
This Regional Recommended Measure applies to Cortaderia jubata (pink pampas grass)
*To see the Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plans containing demonstrated outcomes that fulfill the general biosecurity duty for this weed click here

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2018