Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Don't cry for me Argentina!

Don't cry for me Argentina

The truth is I never left you

All through my wild days

My mad existence

I kept my promise

Don't keep your distance

Evita, 1978. Frank Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice

I wonder if there are many homesick Argentines in my neighborhood? I wonder if they miss the flora of their homeland so much that they have attempted to grow some of their native plants here in the urban landscape of Seattle? I wonder if plants really do get lonely and if that's why people always plant things in twos or threes or fours? Inquiring minds want to know. Okay, maybe I'm the only one who wants to know.

Allow me to introduce cortaderia selloana. 

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This is a magnificent, noble, graceful plant. Definitely a jaw dropping, head turning, show-stopping, car accident causing, WOW! type of plant. For me this is an iconic grass species of Argentina. Alas, no, the above picture was not taken on a recent family trip to South America in search of fodder for our blog. I wish it were so, but sadly it is not. These two beautiful specimens, along with about a dozen others, are to be found right in our neighborhood. 

Cortaderia selloana is commonly known as pampas grass. Before I knew better, I thought it was "pompous" grass. Granted, this is definitely grass with attitude. "Pampas," from the Quechua language, means "plains." The pampas are the fertile lowlands of South America extending from Argentina to Uruguay and the southernmost part of Brazil. Cortaderia selloana grows to a height of 12' and a spread of 8'. The leaves are only 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch wide but can be as long as 6' and the edges of the leaves are very sharp, sharp enough to cut. Cortaderia selloana is often confused with cortaderia jubata. According to the ANR database at UC Davis' website, the latter differs in its ability to produce viable seeds--over a million in a plant's lifetime--while the former does not produce viable seeds as most plants are female and only those with working male parts can produce viable seeds. However nurseries have been propagating these plants to have more working male parts.

I wonder if botanists and horticulturalists in South America are shaking their heads and laughing, "Gringos locos!"? I wonder if bulldozer pruning is soon going to replace shovel pruning in our neighborhood?

18 comments:

Cinj said...

So much to wonder, so little time! My plants I wanted to take with me popped up shortly after I arrived in my old garden, so I wouldn't be surprised if they do get lonely. I suppose the formations though are more design insiped than anything, but still....

Nancy J. Bond said...

That is one LARGE grass! It's extraordinary!

ourfriendben said...

Whoa! They don't get that big here in scenic PA! Must be that perfect climate you all have out there...

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hi Cinj! I've noticed that these grasses are never planted alone, always in pairs. They definitely provide instant privacy screening as they grow VERY quickly.

Greetings Nancy. LARGE is right. Did I mention these two are planted in a curb strip? Imagine trying to walk down the sidewalk and not get caught up in the leaves or trying to park next to them.

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

I think scenic PA is a lovely spot for these plants OFB. Yes, things do tend to grow at an alarmingly fast rate here.

Jane Marie said...

I've never seen an ornamental grass so big. Wow!

I loved your comment on my post. That plant is also the same as bee balm. The flowers a/or leaves can be used to flavor regular black tea, creating Earl Grey.
Good Luck on the drawing!

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hi Jane Marie. Neither had we til we moved here. It's quite something--an ecosystem all onto itself. Seriously, there are all kinds of critters, like rats, that live in those things.

Annie in Austin said...

Someone had planted Pampas grass around the meters and utility boxes at our last house...they did soften the impact of the metal in the front yard, but we sometimes had to read those meters. Leg and arm cuts from the leaf edges took a long time to heal and we finally ripped the grass out. When I lived in Illinois they seemed such lovely plants, WWWenches!
But they are only pretty at a distance, and are also a concern when the fire danger is high.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hi Annie. I've read they are very difficult to remove once they are well established. Perhaps something a bit softer in front of meters is a smarter choice. One plant guru has this plant listed on his "picks" list saying it's great for privacy screening and to fill in unsightly spaces quickly, no mention of getting cut by leaves--obviously he didn't get too close. I hadn't thought about the fire hazard until you mentioned it, but yes, instant torch!

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Well now, your grass seems to have out done my hibiscus on the "Wow that's Ginormous" scale.

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hey Aunt Debbi! Someone needs to hybridize a dwarf version of this thing--SOON!

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

My neighbors have one, I posted a picture. I don't think it is as big as that one, but you just have to see how they used it. It looks like it is eating the house.

中島 彰信 said...

I have watched the totally same grass in Japan. I was not able to watch the grass before about 20. I think that the grass which somebody imported from South America increased.
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Shady Gardener said...

One of my former neighbors has a large stand of this. It's wonderful!! But not suited for every yard, obviously. :-)

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

Hello and thank you for leaving a comment. Yes, this grass has been imported all over. It also has been declared illegal in some places because of the problems it is causing--competing with native plants, etc.

Very true Shady Gardener. In Argentina these plants look stunning. In the middle of an urban lot in Seattle something gets lost in translation.

Kathleen said...

Holy moly. that's incredible. Just shows what an amazing climate you live in. If someone were to hollow out the center, it could provide shelter!

Weed Whackin' Wenches said...

We've joked about this very thing Kathleen! Especially given how outrageous housing prices are here.

Viooltje said...

Absolutely stunning Pampas specimen. I've been mesmerized by this plant since I first laid my eyes on it and could not sleep tight until I've had one of me own. But I also wondered if it felt alone, far away from it's numerous cousins, so I've got her a pink cousin to chit-chat with when I'm not around ;-) (the Pink one is only a year old and hasn't produced any witches' flying vehicles but at least it has survived our brutal winters.