South Island toetoe

Cortaderia richardii (Recently renamed to Austroderia richardii), the South Island toetoe. The grass so nice they named it twice.

The South Island toetoe is a common evergreen grass seen throughout the South Island and Stewart Island. It is a non threatened species that is endemic to New Zealand. You’ll see the toetoe along river banks, stream beds and around lake margins. It is also at home on hillsides from the coast to sub alpine areas. Hardy to cold, drought and windy conditions it’s one tough plant, even known to grow in sand dunes.

The toetoe will be in full plumage from summer to winter, depending on situation. A stately plant with plumes that can reach 3m high, in approximately 5 years it’s grassy base can reach 2m high and wide. This makes it a perfect plant for spicing up a boring dry bank but not necessarily for a small suburban garden. Especially if you have children as the leaves are sharp if rubbed the wrong way.

A traditional use for toetoe was to line the inner walls, roofs, and partitions of houses and other buildings with the stems (culms) called kākaho, producing a neat finish. The hollow culms were also used as shafts for hunting arrows, straws and pipes, spears in games, and frames for kites.

South Island Toetoe are readily available for purchase. Pictures taken at Lake Hayes.

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