Plants scrambling, spreading through tree branches; rhizomes pachymorph, short-necked. Culms to 10 m, 0.5–1.5 cm in diam., initially erect, then pendulous; nodes lightly raised with a hard thin flange below a short girdle, no supra-nodal ridge; internodes terete, smooth, not grooved, to 50 cm long, dark green, with very thin persistent wax that becomes flaky, thick-walled to nearly completely solid. Branches initially 7-40, central dominant and approaching size of culm, others much smaller and subequal, verticillate, nodes with tall girdle, thickened and asymmetric on geniculate nodes, basal internodes compressed, secondary branches developing tardily, all branches subtended by a sheath; buds initially closed at front, prophyll tall, 2-keeled. Culm sheaths extremely tough, narrowly triangular, very persistent until branch development, brown-spotted, basally and marginally more or less scabrous with microscopic retrorse points, points denser on distal sheaths, margins membranous and not ciliate; ligule inconspicuous, blade tiny, needle-like, erect, persistent. Leaf sheaths narrow, glabrous, persistent; blade thin, linear-lanceolate, apex long-acuminate, 8-12(-15)cm in length, lightly rugose, venation not tessellate. Synflorescence semelauctant, racemose panicles, bracteate, lateral spikelets subtended by a bract and basally prophyllate. Prophyll and glumes not subtending buds. Spikelets sessile to shortly pedicellate, several to many-flowered, laterally flattened, terminal florets incomplete. Rachilla disarticulating and florets separately deciduous. Glumes 1-2, or absent in terminal spikelets; lemma glabrous. Palea 2-keeled, usually equal in length to lemma. Lodicules 3. Stamens 6; filaments free. Ovary oblong or ovate, upper portion pubescent or glabrous; style 1; stigmas 3. Name from Neo (Greek, new), and Micro + calamus (Greek, small + reed), acknowledging Microcalamus Gamble, which was invalid, having been used previously. When becoming aware of this Gamble did not republish his genus with a valid name because he was persuaded by Kew grass taxonomists that it should remain in Arundinaria, despite having 6 stamens.
Neomicrocalamus is a small genus of approximately 2-4 subtropical scandent species, native to the E Himalayas, NE India and Yunnan, related to Dendrocalamus and Bambusa, readily distinguished from all other genera by the extremely tough culm sheaths with needle-like blades. Collections from the Zullah Valley in the Khasia Hills were described by James Rollo as ‘a creeping bamboo’. Young seedlings were first encountered in Bhutan, and were thus expected to develop long rhizome necks, but stayed in tight clumps with short-necked pachymorph rhizomes instead.
Although morphologically somewhat similar to the more tropical Racemobambos, DNA analysis has shown that it is not closely related.
Delightful bamboos forming curtain-like cascades of attractive foliage, without the messy persistent sheaths of Chusquea species of similar habit, leaves slightly crinkled, glossy, very smooth, paper-thin. Very resistant to pests and potentially well-suited to indoor cultivation, but now very rare in western horticulture. Included here because Himalayacalamus planatus was previously misidentified at Kew, and cultivated under the name Neomicrocalamus microphyllus. To complicate matters further, Ampelocalamus microphyllus has sometimes been mistakenly placed in Neomicrocalamus as N. microphyllus. Separately, plants of N. prainii from Tibet were published under an invalid name as N. microphyllus. Plants have sometimes been sold directly from China misnamed as N. microphyllus.
Used for weaving, especially the hats and brightly coloured ornamental basketry of Bhutan.