The BioGeek Memoirs: Pampas Grass

It’s fall now in Colorado. The evenings are crisp, the trees are glowing in autumn hues, the crickets have gone silent, and only the bunnies remain in the yard. The last of the plants in my gardens are bravely blooming still, but tomorrow there is a frost warning, and their last days are upon them.

Here and there among the glowing trees the plumes of ornamental Pampas grass wave in the wind. These showy grasses, indigenous to the Pampas region of South America, have become more and more popular over the last few years and different varieties of them wave in the wind at me as I drive by on errands. Each time I see one I’m hit with a wave of good feeling: my mother loved Pampas grass.

Remember my mom, born in Yokohama, Japan, to Swedish-American parents? Well, she spent her high school years in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at the edge of the South American Pampas. How did that happen, you ask. Well… my grandfather was an engineer who worked for a canning company that operated internationally, which is why my mom learned 4 different languages during her life. Let’s get back to the Pampas grass…

Early in the summer the grasses have these showy white plumes…
Now the plumes are brown as the seeds ripen. Do you see how tall these grasses are?
That stop sign is taller than me, so that grass is at least 8 feet tall!!

Every time my mother saw Pampas grass growing, she would exclaim about how wonderful it was, how it came from the Pampas, and then the stories about the Pampas would start. The grasslands, the Gauchos, Yerba Mate tea, ropes and cows, and then all her memories of Buenos Aires. (We tried to love the Pampas grass too, for her sake, but the edges of the grass had little buzzsaw edges that could give us a nasty cut on our fingers. Those grasses are better admired from afar!) She made us Yerba Mate tea and we could try to drink it out of her special little gourd with its silver straw.

My mom used to wear this silver brooch of a Gaucho hat with an attached rope and knife.

Now I live at the edge of the North American Great Plains which is similar to the Pampas of my mother’s formative years. Many of the animals that live here echo the animals that my mother told us about when I was young (but not all… we have bison!), and instead of Gauchos we have a Cowboy culture. There are tall grasses here, and sagebrush, but nothing like the Pampas grass. Still, there are the open skies, the gentle hills covered with waving grass, raptors soaring overhead, and the occasional sighting of an antelope or deer. I understand why my mother evidently longed for the open vistas of the Pampas after she had left them, and each time I drive past open prairielands I feel connected through time with her.

And every time I see Pampas grass.

Author: Midnight Knitter

I weave, knit and read in Aurora, Colorado where my garden lives. I have 2 sons, a knitting daughter-in-law, a grandson and two exceptionally spoiled kittens. In 2014 I was diagnosed with a serious rare autoimmune disease called systemic sclerosis along with Sjogren's Disease and fibromyalgia.

13 thoughts on “The BioGeek Memoirs: Pampas Grass”

  1. How lovely that your memories of your mother are so incredibly varied, Marilyn .. You come from an amazingly diverse background, m’ dear ! 🙂

  2. We have a huge grass thingy in the front, I’m not sure on the variety because the people who we bought from had planted it. Unfortunately here urban legend says having a pampas grass in the front garden is a sign you are a Swinger! I can’t comment on the previous owners but we definitely are not 😂. Your parents sound like they had quite an exciting life.

    1. I will never look at that house on the corner the same way again! 🙂 My family does have a lot of great stories. My grandmother (mom’s side) once went out on the ship with my grandfather (this had to do with fishing and canning somehow) and the ship was trapped in port in Kamchatka, Russia for the winter when they were iced in… that winter my grandmother learned Russian!!

    2. I was watching Vera last night on BritBox and there was a scene of Vera arriving home in her battered Range Rover. There in the plantings on the way to the front of the house were two big clumps of Pampas grass. I remembered what you had said about swingers and burst out laughing!!

  3. What wonderful memories of your mother! She certainly had an interesting life. I got my first introduction to pampas grass, when I lived in NC. I appreciate all of your BioGeek posts. 🙂

  4. I’ve never seen Pampas grass written, only pronounced. I always thought it was pompous grass, which I assumed it was named due to it growing so tall and spreading so easily. I’m glad I learned something today. What a lovely memory of your mother.

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