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, includes up to about 90 species, but many will need to be moved to other genera as they become better known. The species are hardy and well suited to use in western horticulture. New introductions from W China are becoming available, but their identification is not always straightforward.
The genus was originally described for a single species with a very dense, spathed, unilateral racemose inflorescence rather like a small toothbrush, and short rhizomes. It has often been suggested that it should be included in the earlier, Himalayan genus Thamnocalamus Munro, which also has rather dense, initially spathed inflorescences. However, bud and branch morphology as well as molecular evidence suggest that they are not so closely related.
Many species initially described in Fargesia have been found to lack dense, spathed, unilateral synflorescences as their flowers have become known, and they have been moved to other genera, especially Borinda. Although hard to separate without flowers, most Borinda species have finely ridged rather than smooth culms, and either longer or much tougher culm sheaths.
The genus Sinarundinaria Nakai was published for cultivated plants of F. nitida and F. murieliae 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.