Scientific name: Austroderia toetoe
Wetland plant group: Grass
Plant growth form: Up to 3m tall
Flowering: Spring and summer
Related species: Three other native species of Austroderia (including A. fulvida in the Wellington region) are also called toetoe.
Toetoe (A. toetoe) is frequently found growing in freshwater wetlands, often with cabbage trees and harakeke. It will also grow on drier sites. Toetoe leaves are about 3m long and 3-5cm wide, edged with fine, saw-like teeth. The flower head forms white, feathery, arching plumes.
Native toetoe is often confused with the introduced pampas grasses (Cortaderia selloana and C. jubata) which are closely related. You can tell pampas grass by its erect flower spikes in autumn and tightly curled dead leaves at the base. Another way to tell whether a plant is pampas or toetoe is by looking at the leaves. Pampas grass leaves have a prominent midrib and toetoe leaves have a number of prominent lateral ribs as well as a midrib. Still unsure? You can give one of the leaves a firm tug - pampas grass leaves will break with a snap, while toetoe leaves will not break. Be careful - the leaves of both plants have sharp edges.
The bases of these plants make good spawning habitat for inanga (whitebait) when planted at stream edges.