Pampas is an ornamental grass notable for its large, sharp leaf blades and the feathery flower spires it produces. It is considered invasive in many regions due to the large number of seeds that a gust of wind can blow from the flower. The grass isn't hard to seed, and it is a nuisance weed in areas of the southern United States, New Zealand, Hawaii and coastal California.
Pampas grass comes from South America and has become popular in ornamental grass gardens. The two main cultivars are Cortaderia selloana and Cortaderia jubata. They are considered invasive species that crowd out natives in New Zealand, South Africa, Hawaii and California. In Hawaii, efforts are being concentrated on eradicating Cortaderia jubata, because the selloana does not seed freely in the area.
Pampas grass can grow 6 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide with a flower panicle that can exceed the height by two to three feet. The grass has a clumping habit and grows into tussocks of long, sharp leaves. The plant bears both male and female flowers and is excellent in dried floral arrangements. It does best in a sunny location in hardiness zones 6 to 8. It is a tolerant plant that doesn't mind drought, excessive heat or even salt spray. The old foliage should be pruned away to make way for new at the end of the season.
The Pampas are a region in South America that includes Argentina, southern Brazil, most of Uruguay and Rio Grande Do Sul. They are lowlands with a mild climate and well distributed rainwater, which makes them an agricultural Eden. Pampas is a word from Quecha, a language spoken in the Andes, that means "plains."
Cortederia is a Spanish-American word meaning "cutter." Where pampas grass is concerned, this refers to the serrated blade-like leaves that can cut a gardener.
A major identifying feature of pampas grass is the brittle old leaf debris. The old leaves fracture off and leave curls that resemble wood shavings around the base of the plant. Similar ornamental grasses do not exhibit this property.