Austroderia toetoe

  • Ligule.
  • Toetoe
  • Leaf sheath colour ivory beneath wax coating; thick weft of hairs at base of leaf.
  • Spikelets. Stokes Valley. Feb 2007.
  • Spikelet close-up showing anthers. Stokes Valley. Feb 2007.
  • Cortaderia toetoe (right) and  C. selloana (left). Near Bulls. Mar 2007.


Austroderia toetoe

Common Name(s)


Current Threat Status

2012 - Not Threatened

Previous Threat Status

2009 - Not Threatened
2004 - Not Threatened


Austroderia toetoe (Zotov) N.P.Barker et H.P.Linder



Flora Category

Vascular - Native


Cortaderia toetoe Zotov


Endemic. Confined to the North Island where it grows from about Carters Beach (western Waikato) south to Wellington. There are reports of it from the Waitakere Ranges that require further investigation. It has been planted and has sparingly naturalised on Waiheke Island. Not naturally occurring in the Tongariro-Taupo region on the Volcanic Plateau, but has naturalised from plantings e.g. on the Pihanga Saddle.


Common in freshwater swamps and wet places from sea level to lower montane habitats. Often growing in association with flax/harakeke (Phormium tenax).


Stout, tussock-forming grass up to 4 m tall when in flower. Leaf sheath glabrous, ivory with green midrib, copiously covered in white wax. Ligule 4 mm. Collar dark brown, upper surface clothed in short hairs. Leaf blade 2(-3) m x 3 cm, straw-yellow, light-green, rarely dark-green, undersides long hairy toward margins, upper surface with a thick weft of hairs at base, otherwise minutely hairy through, and rather harsh due to numerous prickle-teeth. Culm up to 4 m, inflorescence portion up to 1 m tall, stiff, erect, densely plumose. Spikelets numerous, 25 mm with 2-3 florets per spikelet. Glumes equal, 25 mm, > florets. Lemma 10 mm, 3-nerved, scabrid. Palea 6.5 mm, keels ciliate. Callus hairs 1.5 mm. Rachilla 0.5 mm. Flowers either perfect or female. Anthers of perfect flowers 4.8 mm, in females 2.8 mm. Ovary of perfect flowers 1 mm, stigma -styles 1.8 mm; female flowers with ovary 1.3 mm, stigma-style 3.5 mm. Seed 2.5-3 mm.

Similar Taxa

Easily identified by the stout, erect, densely plumose inflorescences, and ivory leaf sheaths. Separated from South American Pampas grasses (Cortaderia species) by their spring or summer flowering, rather than autumn flowering habit, waxy leaf sheaths, and by the dead leaves which fold longitudinally, and disarticulate in their entirety - the South American species curl up toward the leaf base, ultimately decaying to a state resembling wood shavings. Pampas grasses can always be distinguished by their brittle leaves with a prominent midrib - fold a leaf across and it snaps or can be torn easily. Austroderia leaves have multiple ribs and cannot be torn across easily.


November - February

Main Flower Colour


Other Flower Colour



October - March

Propagation Technique

Easily grown from fresh seed (as a revegation exercise ripe seed heads can be pinned to soil surface, and if kept damp, soon germinate) and division of established plants.


Abundant and not threatened. Often naturalising in suitable habitats.

Chromosome No.

2n = 90

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Where To Buy

Uncommon in cultivation and generally too robust for urban gardens. Occasionally offered by specialist native plant nurseries.

References and further reading

Edgar, E.; Connor, H.E. 2000: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. V. Grasses. Manaaki Whenua Whenua Press, Christchurch.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 11: 285-309

This page last updated on 4 Dec 2018

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