Plants forming dense clumps. Rhizomes pachymorph, neck to 15 cm. Culms pendulous, probably to ca. 6 m tall; internodes terete, to 15-25(-30) cm, to ca. 2.5 cm in diam., bright green with light deciduous blue-grey wax at first, becoming yellow-green, or red to dark purple after exposure, smooth, glabrous, walls thick; nodes not prominent, supra-nodal ridge obscure, sheath scar prominent, initially lightly tomentose; branches initially 5-9, strong and angular. Culm sheaths very persistent, much longer than internodes, to 40 cm, narrowly triangular, distally very thin, basally thick-papery, initially light green, variably purple-spotted and blotched at first, sparsely to densely and persistently purple-setose, each bristle in a dark spot or blotch, apex of new shoots broad and inflated and often pink to purple, margins prominently long-ciliate, base glabrous or with sparse hairs; auricles to 1 mm, reflexed, an undulating band merging into blade base, purple, tomentose; oral setae absent; ligule to 3 mm, fimbriate, tomentose; blade short, lanceolate, glabrous, reflexed, deciduous. Leaf sheath often distally pink-purple, glabrous but distal margins lightly pubescent and apically shortly ciliate, shoulders level; auricles large, falcate, reflexed, often purple; oral setae many, spreading, straight or wavy, white, to 10 mm; ligule truncate, to 0.5 mm, tomentose, long-fimbriate; external ligule to 0.5 mm, tomentose, shortly ciliate; blade to 12 cm, lanceolate to broadly lanceolate, light green, base rounded to cuneate, abaxial very shortly pilose to proximally densely pilose and extremely densely pilose by basal midrib and onto pseudopetiole, adaxial initially sparsely to densely pilose, secondary veins 3-4-paired, margins spinescent-serrulate, transverse veins weak. Florets with basal ring of tufted white hair, lemmas much longer than paleas, apically shortly ciliate and sparsely scabrous.
Only known from seed and young plants, the seed very widely sold from Yunnan, China by a private Chinese company. It does not seem to match the published description of any Fargesia or Borinda species precisely. Several seed collections were made from different parts of Yunnan, up to 200 miles apart. As very young plants they all appear very similar. Only time will tell how different they are as mature plants. The description above is made from the first seed batch, sold as Fargesia yunnanensis.
The delicate leaves and waxy culms would suggest Borinda rather than Fargesia. They are fast-growing, with pendulous culms carrying delicate light green foliage leaves on long branchlets. The culms are attractive, with light blue-grey wax on distal parts of culm internodes at first, the culms darkening to shades of purple after exposure, but the culms are obscured by dense foliage and very long, very persistent untidy culm sheaths. As with all seedlings there is some variation between plants. However, they all seem well distinguished from other species by their long-fimbriate ligules, with naked auricles on culm sheaths and falcate auricles with spreading setae on leaf sheaths, as well as the long culm sheaths, distally much inflated at shoot apices. This is a characteristic repeated in the long, broad, often broken apices to the lemmas, making seed quite distinctive. The dense purple hairs and spots on the culm sheaths are similar to those of the cultivated B. fungosa.
Marketed globally from 2011 under many different names, listed above, all as very similar, quite distinctive seed. They are not F. papyrifera, F. yunnanenis or F. albocerea. nor apparently B. fungosa, as cultivated in the west at least. Fargesia similaris is not well known, but has tough culm sheaths and like F. yuanjiangensis, no leaf sheath auricles. The names F. songmingensis, F. huaningensis, and F. gaolinensis are unpublished, but it has been suggested that they represent varieties of F. yunnanensis, a spreading bamboo. A remarkable number of misidentifications or adoptions of new unpublished names have occurred for these seed batches, the florets all having basal beards and long lemmas.
The plants are vigorous, but they are only hardy down to about -6°C (28°F) before damage to leaves and late shoots begins. Large quantities of seed were collected in different batches, and many plants raised for sale, but the lack of hardiness in all of them has been a disappointment to many, especially as the seed was marketed as hardy to -25°C.
Caveat emptor applies to most internet bamboo seed and plants, but now unfortunately care is required on purchase of bamboos sold under any of the above names. From the spidery leaf sheath oral setae and its prevalence on the worldwide web, there is a temptation to call it Borinda arachnoides. It may be better to use a name from the locality in which it was first collected, Borinda gaolinensis, if they turn out to all be the same species, and if that/those species is/are new, and if they really are Borinda, and if it really came from Gaolin, but more work is evidently required to find out more about these bamboos.
Tarzanus (2011-12). Fargesia fungosa - starting from seed. At www.bamboocraft.net/forums
Canadianplant et al. (2011-12) Starting Fargesia species from seed. At www.bambooweb.info/bb
Olivier D. et al. (2013) Semis Fargesia. At www.bambous.fr/forum
Rumoured to have been first collected by Professor Tan Hongchao of Chinese University of Yunnan, in Gaolin, Songming Xian at 2100 m, but seed also collected from various other localities.