Plants forming dense to rather open clumps. Rhizomes pachymorph, neck 3--10 cm long. Culms to 8 m, to 6 cm in diam., nodding; internodes to 30 cm, terete, densely blue-grey waxy for first year, becoming yellow-green, longitudinal ridges very prominent, distally densely light brown setose, cavity small, wall very thick; nodes prominent, especially in smaller culms, supra-nodal ridge obscure, sheath scar prominent; branches initially (3)-5-(7), strong. Culm sheaths quickly deciduous, slightly longer than internodes, tough, initially light green or orange-green, distally and marginally purple-tinged, basally very sparsely and distally sparsely brown-setose, apex broad, longitudinal ribs not coloured, margins initially distally densely long-ciliate; auricles small, irregular, with fusion of setae bases, initially green; oral setae erect, wavy, white or pink; ligule to 5 mm, eroded, finely ciliate, glabrous; blade linear, glabrous, reflexed, often purple, quite persistent, margins usually glabrous. Leaves 4--8 per ultimate branch; sheath glabrous, margins glabrous, often distally pink-purple; auricles small, a fusion of setae bases; oral setae few, erect or spreading, stout, light brown or purple-tinged, ca. 4--6 mm; ligule convex, to 2 mm, tomentose; external ligule shortly white-ciliate; blade broadly lanceolate, to 20 × 2.5 cm, fresh mid-green, base cuneate, glabrous, secondary veins 4-5-paired, margins spinescent-serrulate, transverse veins distinct. Synflorescence unknown. Name papyrifera Latin, ‘giving paper’.
Substantial, thick-walled culms with large broad showy foliage leaves. Boundaries between this and similar but smaller bamboos including B. albocerea and B. contracta have not been defined satisfactorily.
In clones such as CS1046, large culms with few branches in the lower part, in combination with quickly deciduous sheaths and dense blue-grey wax, make this one of the most handsome of all moderately hardy bamboos introduced so far, but the foliage is not hardy below about -8°C.
Borinda papyrifera was first introduced into the UK from 3,130m on Zhi Ben Shan in Yunnan Province of China in 1995 (Stapleton 1046, illustrated above), and later to both the UK and US from similar locations in Yunnan. Plants developed in the laboratory and trademarked as ‘Blue Dragon’ are of uncertain origin. Allegedly growing as though lacking apical dominance, with vigorous short-lived shoots and many short branches, ideal for rapid multiplication, but only thriving under perfect environmental conditions. Seed and seedlings from China, Thailand, Germany and France mis-sold as Fargesia papyrifera since 2011, are not this species at all, but Tongpeia arachnoides.