QUESTION: Why is Pampas grass illegal? I love the way it looks and wanted to plant some in my garden. — Sarah J.
ANSWER: Pampas grass is not illegal in the United States, though it is illegal in Australia. Breaking the ban in Australia carries a $10,000 fine. Pampas grass is an invasive plant that has the potential to spread faster than wildfire. Its popularity has been on the rise as of late because of Instagram photos using Pampas grass in weddings and home decor. Let’s talk about what Pampas grass is and why it’s bad for your garden.
This large, perennial weed is popular because of its feathery, plume-like shape. Plants can reach up to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. It’s originally from South America. Plants come in shades of white, brown, and pink. However, you may see dyed colors like bright tones or gray on artificial or dried Pampas grass.
Each Pampas grass plume has the capacity to hold up to 100,000 seeds inside—which has a lot to do with why the plant is classified as invasive in so many places and has become illegal in Australia. Like many invasive plants, they spread via underground rhizomes, making it hard for plants that grow from seeds to keep up.
Just imagine how many seeds can come from a stand of plants, and how far they can be carried on a brisk wind. (That last part you don’t have to imagine. Light winds can spread Pampas grass seeds around a 25-kilometer radius, or 15 and a half miles.)
The plants also make great homes for all kinds of vermin, which is another reason you don’t want them in your garden. The feathery plumes that are so gorgeous in photos create thick matted stands of the grass that can also be a fire hazard. Pampas grass is especially bad for ecosystems because it tends to outcompete native plants.
You may see pampas grass for sale that’s had its seeds removed. While this is OK in other parts of the world, it won’t fit the bill for Australian buyers. That’s because it’s impossible to tell whether dried pampas grass has had its seeds removed or not.
As reported by The Latch, you do have options if you’ve just got to have the look of pampas grass to decorate a room or for an upcoming event. Stores including Myer, Etsy, and Amazon sell artificial pampas grass that looks just like the real deal. And as a bonus, artificial pampas grass won’t get into your eyes and nose, which florists say can present quite an annoying problem with the real stuff.