The Story of ‘Ichu’

In the Spring of 2016 I made a trip to Peru to visit my cousin who is a missionary in Arequipa, Peru. He arranged for me to visit all the tourist sites in Peru including a bus trip up into the high Andes.

These mountains are over 22,000 feet high.

P1030307In the valleys between these mountains live the llamas at elevations of around 15,000 feet.

P1030310Our guide told us that the llamas eat this grass called “Ichu”.

‘Ichu’ is also used as a roofing material for the Peruvian houses in the high country.

P1030325The Peruvian government gives these Peruvian people a license to care for these animals to make sure they have plenty to eat and are protected from the wild animals.  In return the people are allowed to shear the animals of their fur and sell it or make clothing from it.  They make very beautiful sweaters from the wool which they sell to the tourists for $40 each.  These sweaters sell for over $500 in the United States.


When I came back to the United States I was at a nursery looking for some grasses to plant in my garden and the nursery woman told me of a new grass called Peruvian Feather Grass (Stipa ichu). It looked like a grass called the Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa tenuissima). I told her that I just saw Ichu in its native habitat in Peru. Here are some pictures of what the Mexican Feather Grass looks like in Dawn Gardens:


The Mexican Feather Grass has a very billowy form with lots of tan seed heads.  The problem with this grass is that it reseeds everywhere unless you cut it back before the seeds mature. 

The Mexican Feathergrass can be a weed as you can see it growing out of a crack in the asphalt. This also shows that this grass is tolerant to poor soils and drought.

The nurserywoman said that Stipa ichu does not reseed as much but it looks very much the same except the seed heads are more of a white color.  I told her to order 250 of them for me. I decided to remove the Mexican Feather Grass and plant 250 Stipa ichu in the same place.

I purchased the ‘Ichu’ in 4″ pots which come 16 to a flat.

I laid them out about 24″ apart and had Vicente plant them.

This is what they look like after planting. This photo was taken in February, 2019. Over the next year I will update this post with new pictures of how ‘Ichu’ is doing.

The above photos and video were taken in June, 2019.

The above photo and video were taken mid-July.

The Ichu makes a river of white through the grass garden.

January 15, 2020. The grasses are one year old and will be cut back soon.

Stipa ichu cut back in early April, 2020.

Daffodil bulbs were planted between the clumps of ‘Ichu’ so some color and interest is visible in March.

Early July, 2020

Video taken mid July, 2020

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