How to know which one is original?

How to know which one is original?

At this time of year, many people enjoy seeing what they believe to be the giant native toe grass blooming along roadsides, beaches, and various other parts of the landscape.

Travelers and vacationers share photos online of sparse, fountain-like grasses suddenly sprouting mop-like flower heads — usually silhouetted against some dramatic sunset.

Except the plant most of these people celebrate is not one of Tonga's five unique national species of Tongan toito-toito, but an invasive relative from South America – two species of which were introduced by early settlers and are known colloquially as the common pampas and the purple pampas.

Toetoe is a symbol of Aotearoa and part of New Zealand's heritage.

It is the largest native tussock grass in our country and is endemic to this country. Tuito are generally restricted to places such as sand dunes, cliffs, swamps, wetlands and of course people's gardens. Historically, Māori used toes to make medicine, for the walls and ceilings of houses, and for mats and keets (baskets).

Pampas, on the other hand, are an invasive weed and have been widely listed as a pest plant since 2001.

It spreads and grows very quickly, migrating easily into poor soils and rocky terrain such as those disturbed by forests or roads.

A single plant can produce millions of seeds. These can spread up to 25 km. The pampas are taking over areas of land, suffocating other native plants that cannot grow.

So, how do we distinguish them from each other?

Here are three main tips:

■ If it blooms during the winter, it's not on the toes. Pampas flowers bloom in the fall (February to June) while toeflowers begin flowering in the spring (October). However, be sure to rely on this advice alone as the flowers can remain on the stems for several months.

■ Pampas flowers stand upright and upright. In contrast, the flowers on the toe tend to droop downward. However, do not rely solely on this advice, because old pampas flowers sometimes also droop a little.

■ The leaves on the two look similar from a distance, but take a closer look and you'll see that pampas grass has one long median rib running the length of the leaf. In contrast, the toe has several veins running the length of the leaf. This difference can be seen by the fact that it is easier to tear a pampas leaf, but the toe will not tear – even when you pull hard.

Like most things, it's best to look at all of these features together to ascertain the type of plant.

But if you're still not sure, here are some other differences between pampas and tuitos:

■ The pampas plant is a large plant that can reach more than five meters in length. Toetoe is a smaller plant that grows to about three meters tall.

■ Toe flowers are gold or cream coloured, thin, pale and curved. In comparison, pampas flowers range in color from white to cream, pink or violet and tend to appear fuller.

■ Toe leaves have a white waxy coating at the base. Pampas leaves turn brown and curl at the base when they die, making them a fire hazard and a home to pests.

■ If you think you have a toe in your area, it could actually be a pampas. You can search online for how to get rid of annoying pampas. Please help spread this information, not the weed!

Here are some useful sites about the Pampas and Tuito.

If you find pampas on your land, please research before removing them so you don't risk spreading them further.

If you find pampas on public land, please notify your local council or DoC office.

Removal tips can be found at these links:

■https://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/services/plant-and-animal-pests/pampas/

■https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/pampas/

■https://www.weedbusters.org.nz/what-are-weeds/weed-list/purple-pampas/

Other useful links:

■https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/tools-and-resources/collections/new-zealand-flax-collections/weaving-plants/toetoe/

■https://tawapou.co.nz/search?q=toetoe

■ https://www.nzpcn.org.nz/flora/species/?common_name=toetoe

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