Masquerading or misidentified as bamboos are many imposters with narrow leaves or strongly segmented stems that are certainly not in the tribe of woody bamboos, and often not even grasses at all. These may be fine plants in their own right, but many people have been disappointed to find that they do not really have a bamboo. Such confusion often arises from use of local or trade names without a full scientific name. There is also a wish to sell plants with the attractive characteristics of bamboos for use as houseplants. Proper bamboos are generally more of a challenge to grow successfully indoors than most houseplants, and they are also much harder to propagate in large quantities, and so more expensive to produce.
Further information on the most common imposters can be found through the links below. Note that Lucky Bamboo may cause an allergic skin reaction, while Heavenly Bamboo contains cyanogenic glycosides and is toxic to animals and birds. Arundo donax, while being a good biomass-producer, is an invasive weed. It can choke waterways, eliminate natural vegetation and wildlife, consume huge quantities of water, create a fire hazard, and cause floods. Pogonatherum paniceum is harmless, and looks most like a bamboo, although the random orientation of the leaves, which clasp the shoots at their bases without a petiole, gives away its non-bambusoid identity and makes it look rather scruffy. There are now variegated cultivars of this species, looking very much like Pleioblastus bamboos, but they are not frost hardy and need constant moisture, while under low light levels indoors they lose the compact dome-like shape to become lanky.