P80915K.JPGJust about everything in this picture is icky! This species of pampas grass, Cortaderia jubata, is one of the most aggressive and noxious of the invasive exotic specie that have naturalized here. It seems to be incarcerated behind the weathered cyclone fence with barbed wire on top. The big water tank is is a harshly stark background. The tired old Douglas firs and ponderosa pines to the left and right seem to be unhappy here. The small coast live oak that is at least trying to make a more cheerful appearance is only oppressed by the surroundings. Only the clear blue sky above lacks the ick factor.

What is not visible in the picture is that there is no other flora in the area. Most of the area is covered with a thick layer of gravel to prevent vegetation from getting established close to the water tank. Weeds that manage to grow get cut down regularly. Only the pampas grass survives the ravages of the weed eater. It has been allowed to stay only because it has not yet been perceived to be a problem. It will probably be removed eventually as well. It would have been much easier to remove before it got so big. Now that it is blooming, it is likely to sow seed for more of the same.

Whomever gets the grim task of removing the pampas grass must contend with the nasty ‘razor grass’ foliage. The very sharp and very finely serrated edges of each leaf cause the worst sort of paper cuts! Even if handled very carefully, the long strap leaves have a way of getting everywhere. Someone tugging the base of the foliage with gloves and long sleeves can lose an ear to just one of the many long leaves that whip around so aimlessly.

However, someone who is unfamiliar with the serious nastiness of pampas grass might see this picture very differently. The firs, pines and oaks are not so bad. The water tank is a neutral background to the subject matter. The weathered cyclone fence with barbed wire on top, . . . well, let’s just say, . . . it’s ‘abstract’. Anyway, to someone who does not know better, the fluffy floral plumes of pampas grass that toss so many seed that have the potential to grow into an indefinite supply of the same nastiness are actually quite pretty.P89015K+.JPG


18 thoughts on “ICK!

  1. That why it is planted. To one person it a beautiful plant any to another it invasive and basely a weed. We had inquiries often to the master garden clinic how I get rid of this plant that here when we moved into the house.

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    1. This species has not been planted for a very long time, not only because it is so invasive, but also because modern cultivars of other species are so much more appealing. This particular species is not the prettiest sort.

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  2. I learned my lesson early on about a few varieties of pampas grass. I eventually removed all of it from my landscaping (at my previous property). They were beautiful the first few years but after digging and trying to keep them at a reasonable size, I finally dug them up for good. I don’t remember having issues with them going to seed, but then maybe my neighbors did and silently cursed me!

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    1. If yours came from a nursery, they were probably Cortaderia selloana, which are not nearly as invasive. Most of the garden varieties produce only female flowers that can not pollinate themselves, so are considered to be sterile. However, in regions where the Cortaderia jubata has naturalized, the Cortaderia jubata can provide the pollen and hybridize with the Cortaderia selloana, contributing to the collective impassiveness. (In such regions, Cortaderia jubata is already a problem, so a few hybrids do not really make it too much worse.)

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    1. Some of the garden varieties are not as invasive as the Cortaderia jubata is, although even the ‘sterile’ varieties do have potential to toss seed if conditions are right. I do not recommend planting pampas grass just because I dislike it so. However, within the urban areas of places like Los Angeles, where it has no place to escape that has not already been infested, I do not mind others planting it.


  3. Experience of the effort it can take to remove a plant can linger for years. I have serious doubts about cotoneaster for that reason. It’s not that it isn’t an attractive, even useful plant, it’s just that as soon as I see it, I’m taken back to days of struggling with it, thinking “never again!”.

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  4. Yep, a true plant horror, a garden thug – we have several of our own native Cortaderia species and now we get crosses between the two which is a real problem. I’ve spent ages as a weed control contractor wandering scrub and poisoning them and taking the flower heads away in a sack – it works but is very tedious..

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    1. Gads! I would not want to harvest those flowers! I am afraid of getting sliced! Paper cuts are so nasty!
      When I was a kid, pampas grass flowers of any species or hybrid of pampas grass were popular as cut flowers. They were sometimes painted.


    1. We were still doing it that way in the 1980s. However, most in home gardens were too close to other plants or buildings, and those in the wild were . . . in the wild, where fire would have been a problem.

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