Rhizome neck 4--10 cm long. Culms 2--4 m, 0.3--1 cm in diam., very dense, pendulous; internodes 5--18 cm, cylindrical, smooth, lightly white-powdery initially, becoming glossy dark green with purple spots, often apically purple-red, becoming orange-yellow, wall to 5 mm thick; nodes with weakly prominent supra-nodal ridge, sheath scar level and tall, mid-culm branches 6--8. Culm sheaths slowly deciduous, basally leathery and smooth, light brown with prominent red-brown ribs, apically asymmetrically rounded with a persistent red band below the blade, much shorter than internodes, basal sheaths with distally dense light hairs, higher sheaths largely glabrous, margins densely yellow-brown-setose; auricles absent; oral setae absent; ligule ca. 1 mm, truncate, initially ciliolate; blade oblanceolate, erect or reflexed, glabrous, margins setose. Leaves 3--7 per ultimate branch; sheath thick, glabrous with outer margin densely white-ciliate at first, usually apically red with yellow veins; auricles and oral setae absent; ligule ca. 1 mm, truncate, purple, shortly tomentose, external ligule not evident, tomentose; blade lanceolate to fusiform, 7--10 × 0.6--1.5 cm, slightly thickened, glabrous, basally cuneate, apically long-acuminate, secondary veins 4--5-paired, one margin shortly spinescent, the other obscurely serrulate, transverse veins distinct, petiole yellow. Inflorescence racemose, unilateral; spikelets shortly pedicellate, usually subtended by densely pubescent reduced sheaths. Shooting June to July. Name from apex, ‘tip’ and rubens, ‘red’ for the distally red-coloured sheaths and internodes.
Introduced from S Shaanxi in 1979, and initially grown under the name Daba Shan No. 2, it flowered in 1988--1990. Lacking in distinctive vegetative characters, but it often develops prominent ruby-red to dark purple tips to leaf sheaths, shoots, and internodes, especially in the sun. It has widely been misidentified as F. dracocephala.
The cultivar ‘White Dragon’ has new leaf blades variously white-striped or completely white each year, the variegation turning more yellow-green in summer, and later leaves being progressively greener. It is slower-growing and eventually probably smaller in stature. It looks best in a very shaded location, especially against a dark background, where the variegated leaves persist to give a stunning highlight. In any sun the variegated leaves are easily scorched and wither, and it either looks rather tatty, or becomes completely green by late summer.
From the Daba Shan Ranges that separate S Shaanxi and NE Sichuan, in 1979.