Rhizomes leptomorph, to 1 m, sometimes partially above ground. Culms 1–2(–3) m tall, 1–1.5 cm in diam., erect or nodding, diffuse to dense, spreading thickets, often solitary; nodes slightly swollen, without thorns, basal nodes with partially thorn-like roots; internodes more or less cylindrical, short, with thick walls, smooth, glabrous, initially green, quickly becoming mottled to dense purple after exposure, then yellow. Branches 3, short, budscale absent. Culm sheaths longer than the internodes, very persistent, thin with evident tessellate venation, margins membranous, brown-bristly around the darker base, initially light brown marbled with white blotches; blades very small, acicular, often less than 2 mm. Leaf sheaths persistent, glabrous, edges shortly ciliate; ligule very short, to 0.5 mm tall, truncate, densely pubescent; auricles absent; oral setae up to 10 each side, erect, crinkled, white, to 5 mm long; blades to 12 x 1 cm, venation conspicuously tessellate, abaxially glabrous, adaxial basally scabrous in the centre, petiole adaxially pubescent. Pseudospikelets linear, 2–4 cm, 4–7-flowered. Glumes 1–2. Rachilla segments 3–4 mm. Lemma papery, ovate-lanceolate, 6–7 mm. Name from the Latin marmorea, ‘marble-like’, for the distinctively patterned culm sheaths.
Widely cultivated in Japan, Chimonobambusa marmorea is now grown in many countries. Smaller than most other species of Chimonobambusa, it is a slowly spreading species in temperate climates, but can spread more vigorously in warm areas. Cultivars with white stripes on some leaves, and yellow/green striping on the culms are also grown.
Chimonobambusa marmorea was introduced into Europe from Japanese gardens in the 19th Century, precise origin unknown.