Cortaderia selloana

Cortaderia selloana, commonly known as pampas grass,[1] is a flowering plant native to southern South America, including the Pampas region after which it is named. There are around 25 species in the genus Cortaderia.

Pampas grass
Herbe Pampa FR 2008.jpg
Pampas grass inflorescences
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Cortaderia
C. selloana
Binomial name
Cortaderia selloana
(Schult. & Schult.f.) Asch. & Graebn.
Big tuft of pampas grass in Jindai Botanical Garden (Tokyo, Japan), height 4 metres (13.1 ft) and diameter 7 metres (23 ft), more than 40 years old as of 2007
Pampas grass in Jindai Botanical Garden, autumn 1964

It is a tall grass, growing in dense tussocks that can reach a height of 3 m (10 ft). The leaves are long and slender, 1–2 m (3 ft 3 in–6 ft 7 in) long, and 1 cm (38 in) broad, with very sharp edges that can easily cut exposed skin. The leaves are usually bluish-green, but can be silvery grey. The flowers are produced in a dense white panicle 20–40 cm (8–16 in) long on a 2–3 m (6 ft 7 in–9 ft 10 in) tall stem.

Cultivation and usesEdit

C. selloana in cultivation

The plant was introduced to Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand as an ornamental grass, and, to a lesser extent, to provide food for grazing animals. The feathery flower head plumes, when dried, are widely used in flower arrangements and other ornamental displays.

Several cultivars are available, including:

  • 'Albolineata'—a small cultivar which grows to only 2 m (6.6 ft) in height: The leaves are variegated, with yellow edges.
  • 'Aureolineata' AGM[2]
  • 'Pumila' AGM[3]
  • 'Sunningdale Silver' AGM[4]—grows to a height of 4 m (13.1 ft) and has particularly dense flowering plumes

Those marked AGM have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Pampas grass is highly adaptable and can grow in a wide range of environments and climates. It also seeds prolifically, with each plant able to produce over one million seeds during its lifetime. As such, in some areas such as Florida, California, Hawaii and Spain it is regarded as an invasive weed. In areas of the southeastern United States, large pampas clumps are known to shelter snakes and rodents. In New Zealand,[5] South Africa[citation needed] and Peninsular Spain,[citation needed] the plant is banned from sale and propagation. Burning pampas grass does not always kill it at the roots, but chemical weedkiller does.

Author Li Hengrui (李恒瑞), whose work Kite Capriccio (風箏暢想曲) describes life as a child in 1950s Fengtai County, Anhui mentions the use of the long stem of the Puwei (蒲葦, Chinese for Cortaderia selloana) in the construction of kites.[6]

Several media outlets reported that it was planted by some couples who practise swinging in the United Kingdom as a way to indicate to other swingers that they enjoy that lifestyle,[7][8] based on a post on Twitter.[9] The reports caused a plunge in already declining sales, but the odd association has been dismissed by enthusiasts and gardening experts as "silly".[10][11]


Cortaderia is derived from the Spanish-Argentine name ‘cortadera’, meaning ‘cutter’, in reference to the sharp leaf margins.[12]

Selloana is named for Friedrich Sellow (1789-1831), a German botanist[12] and naturalist[citation needed] from Potsdam who worked as a plant collector in Brazil.[12] He studied the flora of South America, especially that of Brazil. The specific epithet selloana was given by Josef August and Julius Hermann Schultes in 1827.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^ "Cortaderia selloana 'Aureolinata'". RHS Plant Selector. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  3. ^ "Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila'". RHS Plant Selector. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Cortaderia selloana 'Sunningdale Silver'". RHS Plant Selector. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  5. ^ Nightingale, Melissa (2019-08-16). "Pampas weed forbidden from use in weddings under Biosecurity Act". New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2019-09-11.
  6. ^ Putonghua Shuiping Ceshi Gangyao. 2004. Beijing. pp.350-351. ISBN 7-100-03996-7
  7. ^ Staff, Guardian (May 31, 2017). "Pampas grass: the not-so secret symbol of swingers is a turn-off" – via
  8. ^ Rudgard, Olivia (May 30, 2017). "Exclusive: Pampas grass sales are falling because it is a secret signal for swingers" – via
  9. ^ Frostrup, Mariella (2011-11-27). "Who knew that pampas grass plants are a signal to fellow swingers? Bought two and put them on my balcony. Neighbours have been swarming!". @mariellaf1. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  10. ^ "People have stopped buying this garden plant because it's used to signal that homeowners are swingers". The Independent. 2017-05-31. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  11. ^ Gallagher, Alanna. "Is pampas grass really a signal to swingers?". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2019-03-25.
  12. ^ a b c Gledhill, David (2008). "The Names of Plants". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521866453 (hardback), ISBN 9780521685535 (paperback). pp 122, 348

External linksEdit