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Pampas..beautiful but illegal in New Zealand

A growing trend shown across Pinterest and Social Media showcases stunning Weddings using fluffy white Pampas grass. It's absolutely beautiful used in mass and looks incredibly romantic, a little ethereal, and even magical. So it's no wonder it's a trend that's spreading globally...and literally!

Pampas Grass Ceremony: Carmel Valley Ranch, Southern California, created by Christine Cater of

The majority of Weddings, especially those in the Northern Hemisphere use Pampas, a South American plant, with massive white fluffy heads. Pampas looks beautiful, but is illegal to use under the Biosecurity act in New Zealand.

It's an invasive, highly spreading weed which has become a serious threat to forestry, farms, sand dunes, riverbanks and natural areas due to its aggressive nature. The seeds spread extremely long distances in the winds, and is so hardy it's the first to grow in any conditions, takes over and wipes out other vegetation, therefore effecting our ecosystems as it replaces native vegetation. With thick bases of spiralling dead leaves that can reach to 1m high, it provides homes for pests such as rats and possums, grows densely and becomes a fire hazard.

Unfortunately the Biosecurity Act does not prevent landowners from growing the plant on their own land, so it does grow wild, especially on farmland, making it easily accessible. A spokesperson for MPI (ministry of primary industries) says:

"People are not permitted to spread, trade or propagate it in New Zealand without permission. This includes using it for floral arrangements or other use." The Act specifies that "communicating" is not permitted - meaning moving the plant from place to place or from person to person is forbidden. "It is also not permitted for the pest or unwanted organism to be in a place where organisms are sold or exhibited. Florist shops would fall under this." *


Most people aren't aware of the difference or that Pampas is illegal to use. It also means for our Wedding Industry, that anyone providing hire items or florals, or dried flowers cannot sell it or use it. We're living in a time of becoming more aware of our personal impact on the environment, and I believe we need to do our part. So please spread the word to educate everyone on this message. However for those that the environment isn't that important to you, the penalties might change your mind about whether it's worth the risk .

"The penalty for knowingly spreading, trading or propagating a pest or unwanted organism is a fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years for an individual, or, in the case of a corporation, a fine up to $200,000," he said.

Examples of gorgeous Weddings on Pinterest, styled with Pampas


But, it's not all doom and gloom and I do have good news for those that love this look and have your heart set on re-creating a beautiful look with fluffy flower-heads. You can use New Zealand's native Toetoe. However both Pampas and Toetoe grow wild in New Zealand, and are very similar in appearance. So if you're a florist, or are planning to source and pick your own grasses, it's crucial you educate yourself and do your research so you can tell the difference.


A rule of thumb is that Toetoe starts flowering in Spring, from September with aging heads lasting through Summer. Toetoe has creamy-yellow heads that arch and droop.

Whereas Pampas flowers after Xmas from January through Autumn. The Pampas plant stands completely upright, and produces dense, thick and fluffy white heads (imagine a feather duster) that fade to a dirty white as the seeds form. There are also some varieties of Pampas that are pink and bright purple.

Toetoe with arching reeds and dropping heads. Pampas standing straight and upright with fluffy heads.

Ensure to also look at the base of the plant as Toetoe grows from ground level, whereas pampas builds up a solid base that can rise up to a metre above the ground, with dead leaf ends that spiral like wood shavings.

Have a look at the chart below and the closeup images showing the difference in the leaves, from Landcare Research.

Overall the look that has created a worldwide trend is beautiful, yet without knowing this information you and others could create a massive impact on our environment. So if you're wanting this look for your Wedding, please learn the difference and share this message and information.


Article in the NZ Herald by @mel_nightingale

Article from Landcare Research created by Sue Scheele and Peter Sweetapple



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