Plants shrub-like, densely clumping; rhizomes pachymorph, necks to 30 cm. Culms unicaespitose, to 6 m tall and 2.5 cm in diam., basally erect, apically nodding to pendulous; internodes to 30 cm, terete, usually smooth and not finely ridged, glabrous, finely purple-spotted, rarely with light to dense wax at first, becoming glossy; nodes scarcely to moderately raised. Branches 5--10 per mid-culm node at first, 7--20 later, often above promontory, subequal, initially erect, becoming deflexed, lateral branch axes lacking subtending sheaths; buds at mid-culm ovate to lanceolate, with 2 tall, single-keeled bracts, dorsally fused in lower culm, open at front (closed at culm base), several initials visible. Culm sheaths oblong, shorter than internode, deciduous; blade usually reflexed. Leaf sheaths persistent; blades small to medium-sized, usually glossy and thickened, normally not deciduous, transverse veins prominent. Synflorescence ebracteate or branches subtended by a series of small persistent delicate sheaths, semelauctant, compressed; branching racemose, unilateral. Spikelets few-flowered; glumes 2 basally tight without subtended buds. Lemma obtuse or acute at apex and mucronate to awned. Palea equal to or shorter than lemma, 2-keeled. Lodicules 3. Stamens 3. Style 1--2. Stigmas 2--3, plumose. Caryopsis oblong. Flowering monocarpic. Named after Paul Guillaume Farges (1844-1912), French missionary and naturalist in W China.
Fargesia, a temperate clumping genus endemic to C & W China, currently includes up to about 90 species, but many are misplaced. The genus was originally described for a species with a very dense, spathed, unilateral racemose toothbrush-like inflorescences, and short rhizomes. It was once considered that it should be included in the earlier, Himalayan genus Thamnocalamus Munro, which also has somewhat dense, initially spathed inflorescences. However, bud and branch morphology as well as molecular evidence suggest that they are not so closely related.
For many years nearly all temperate clump-forming species discovered in China were described as species of Fargesia (while spreading species with pachymorph rhizomes were placed in Yushania). Many species were later found to have different branching and to lack dense racemose unilateral bracteate toothbrush-like inflorescences, and were moved to other genera, including Himalayacalamus, Drepanostachyum, and Thamnocalamus. A substantial number also lack toothbrush-like inflorescences, but have the same branching and lanceolate buds. They are treated here as species of Borinda, but it is not easy to separate Fargesia and Borinda without flowers, or seeing important but often unrecorded features of the living plants. Most Borinda species have finely ridged rather than smooth culms, and either longer or much tougher culm sheaths. Because it is still not known which of the many species in Yunnan are really Fargesia and which are Borinda, the two genera are often temporarily treated as one, under the name Fargesia, in order for all the species of Borinda to remain together, e.g. in the Flora of China. Molecular evidence is now revealing the real identity of many of these, even without flowers, see Borinda page.
The genus Sinarundinaria Nakai was published for cultivated plants of F. nitida and F. murielae sent from Kew to Japan. Flowering of both species has confirmed that they belong in Fargesia, where Sinarundinaria is now placed as a synonym. Sinarundinaria was for a while used in a very broad sense covering the genera Yushania, Drepanostachyum, Himalayacalamus, Chimonocalamus and Otatea as well as Fargesia nitida, assuming that F. nitida would have open inflorescences, which it does not.
Yi, T.P. (1988). A study on the genus Fargesia Franch. from China. J. Bamboo Res. 7(2): 1–119.
Stapleton, C.M.A. (2006). New taxa and combinations in cultivated bamboos (Poaceae: Bambusoideae). Sida 22(1): 331–332.