The twists and turns of the Akatarawa Valley Hill Road were eventually a little too much for Kiwi Daughter and my stomachs to handle.
Fortunately before we got greener than the surrounding scenery, we found a clearing at the top of one of the main peaks and overlooking the Upper Hutt side of the hills where we could stop and take a breather.
In front and to the side of us was a thick stand of Toi Toi.
When I wanted to look up the genus name of the plant, and found myself on the Wikipedia site, I discovered that “toi toi (or “toitoi”) is a common misspelling of it’s actual name “Toetoe”.
I’ll apologise to the purists right now for the fact the “toitoi” has been my favourite name for this plant all my life and that since “toetoe” just doesn’t do it for me and I quite liked my blissful ignorance, I’ll be continuing to happily misspell it as “toitoi” (well, at least until I get over the shock that my favourite name is all wrong).
I did find the genus, for gardeners amongst you it’s “Austroderia” and Wiki also told me that “Pampas Grass”, have been introduced to New Zealand and are often mistaken for toetoe. These introduced species tend to take over from the native toetoe and are regarded as invasive weeds.
Among the differences between Pampas, Toetoe has a drooping flower head, a cream coloured plume and the leaves do not break when tugged firmly. Toetoe also has a white, waxy bloom on the leaf-sheath and conspicuous veins between the midrib and leaf margin.”
Now I’m squinting at the photographs my computer screen trying to figure out if these white plumes are white enough, or if they are actually cream. Ugh, these botanical dudes certainly know how to play tricks on you sometimes.
Let’s assume this stuff isn’t pampas grass and get back to Wiki: ”The Māori used the toetoe leaves to make baskets, kites, mats, wall linings and roof thatching. It was also used to make containers to cook food in hot springs. The flower stalks were also useful – as frames for kites, and in tukutuku panelling.
The seed heads themselves were used on fresh wounds to stop bleeding. Other medicinal uses included treatment of diarrhoea, kidney complaints, and burns. Toetoe is New Zealand’s largest native grass, growing in clumps up to 3m in height.“
I do remember that my Father used to do battle with a giant toitoi / toetoe in our garden planted with native bush when we moved to the city, other kids who came to visit used to complain when it got big and obstructed the path that it was too scratchy and a few called it “cutty” grass, but we considered them to be soft city wimps. Obviously they had never met the infamous High Country Spear Grass which was really something to cry about if you landed in it or brushed past it.
I wrote a post on experiences of Speargrass here… http://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/new-4/
I know that in some parts the toitoi/ toetoe is pretty much a weed, but there’s my problem… it’s pretty, it’s a Native plant and come on, on the positive side, it’s not the dreaded non-native Gorse that is slowing choking the life out of the South Island’s High Country.
My Father also battled other interlopers in that city garden, from the Convolvulus that managed to break gaps though the sealed driveway, the rampant ivy that gained entry over the fence, and the tortured willow that was clearly so named because it spent time torturing my Father by growing back to massive heights in spite of repeated uses of a chainsaw as close to ground level as possible.
I never saw the toitoi / toetoe as a problem, I like its feather-like fronds waving in the wind. I love the delicacy and the detail… and as you know I’m a sucker for detail. (sigh) That’s probably why I’m a sucker for toitoi.