Austroderia richardii is endemic to the South Island of New Zealand, found in abundance from the coast to subalpine areas. Common along stream banks, river beds, around lake margins, and in other wet places in plant communities that include but are not limited to Carex maorica, Carex secta, Carex virgata, Coprosma propinqua, Leptospermum scoparium and Phormium tenax. Also found in sand dunes, especially along the Foveaux Strait. It is most suited to moist or dry soils, well suited to a coastal environment.. It can tolerate very poor soils such as sand on coastal dunes and is able to thrive in frost-prone regions.
Austroderia richardii are large growing grasses that can grow up to 3 m tall. They have distinctive flower spikes that protrude up to 2m above the clump of foliage. These high plumes are the main identifying feature of the Austroderia richardii as they are gracefully arching, which makes them stand out from other Austroderia. The flower head is usually one-sided and drooping. This makes it unlike the invasive South American “pampas grass” (A. selloana) whose flower heads are thicker and erect and whose leaves have a prominent single midrib. The leaves of toetoe have multiple prominent veins running down either side of the middle of the leaf. This makes them a lot tougher and stronger than the invasive.
The flower plumes of Austroderia richardii are a creamy buff colour and have a loose appearance. These showy plumes attract a wide range of endemic and exotic bird species that feed on the seeds in summer. The leaves have very sharp edges and tiny teeth that run along the leaves of the plant.
On farm, Austroderia richardii is a good wind break once established as they grow in clumps and are very hardy plants that can withstand many weather conditions. Protects stock and stays below pivot irrigation, also useful in runoff prevention and along water courses. Toe toe is an attractive bank stabilisation plant, good for a range of soils and suits riparian plantings.
For more information about streamside and riparian edge planting, we recommend Lucas Associate’s Plant List and River & Stream Profiles Guide.