Culms 0.5–1(–2) m tall, 2–5 mm thick, erect, markedly flexuose where branching; internodes flattened above branches, glabrous, apically waxy below node at first, glossy, initially distally purple-spotted, thick-walled; nodes with strongly elevated supranodal ridge if branches present, sheath scar raised but thin; branches 3(–5), 1–5 cm, deflexed, equal. Culm sheaths papery, glabrous, purple-blotched at first, deciduous, tessellate venation prominent, external margin partially ciliate, distally membranous and glabrous; auricles and oral setae absent; ligule inconspicuous, ca. 1 mm; blade to 1 cm, subulate or acicular. Leaf sheaths variable, 1–5, glabrous, margins glabrous, apical sheath thickened, inseparable from branchlet, persistent; if more than one sheath then proximal sheaths papery, loose, deciduous, second sheath the longest, distal sheaths shorter; auricles and oral setae absent; ligule 2–3 mm, truncate, membranous, tomentose; blade 3–11 cm long, 2–2.5 cm wide, oblong-lanceolate to ovate-lanceolate, apically acute, basally broadly cuneate, abaxially shortly white-tomentose, adaxially glabrous, glossy dark green, somewhat corrugated, secondary veins 6–9 pairs, venation distinctly tessellate. Synflorescences at nodes with (1–)2–5 pseudospikelets; spikelets with 0–1 empty bracts, 2–3 gemmiferous bracts, 3–7 florets, lower 1–3 bisexual, upper ones male or sterile. Lemma thin. Palea membranous. Lodicules 3. Anthers yellow. Ovary narrowly ovate. Style 1. Stigmas 2–3, plumose. Caryopsis narrowly ovate.
Shibataea kumasaca is a woodland species of China and Japan, also introduced into many countries as an ornamental. The spelling of the epithet has been changed erroneously to ‘kumasasa’ by some authors, under the misapprehension that ‘kuma-sasa’ is the Japanese common name for this bamboo, and that epithets that alter common names can be corrected. Usually known as Okame Zasa (Tortoise Bamboo) in Japan from the leaf shape, the tortoise being a lucky symbol, so this is the real ‘Lucky Bamboo’. Cultivars with leaf blades bearing either yellow or white stripes, ‘Aureostriata’ and ‘Albostriata’, are also grown.
Shibataea chinensis Nakai is very similar to S. kumasaca, apparently differing mainly in its glabrous abaxial leaf surface. A better-distinguished species with narrower leaf blades, S. lancifolia, is also sometimes grown.
Stapleton, C. M. A. (1997). The Good Luck or Fortune-inviting Bamboo Shibataea kumasaca (Steud.) Makino ex Nakai: A discussion of the correct botanical name. Bamboo Soc. (GB) Newsletter 27: 32 – 37.
Native to Fujian & Zhejiang Provinces of China, and widely distributed in Japan both in the wild and in cultivation, and taken to Europe from Japan in the late 19th Century.