Rhizome neck 9–15 cm long. Culms 2–5 m, 0.5–1.5 cm in diam; internodes 10–20 cm, cylindrical, glabrous or initially slightly white-powdery, wall 3–5 mm thick; nodes with weakly prominent supra-nodal ridge, sheath scar slightly prominent and narrowly ridged, branches 8–15. Culm sheaths deciduous or slowly deciduous, papery to thinly leathery, triangular-elliptic, shorter than internodes, pale, basally red-tinged and glabrous, with very sparse to quite dense, long, erect, deciduous, light-yellow to red-brown bristles, denser on basal sheaths; margins glabrous; ribs light red-brown and prominent; auricles absent or small; oral setae absent or few, erect, 3-5 mm, deciduous; ligule 1–2 mm, truncate, initially densely ciliate; blade triangular or linear-lanceolate, erect or revolute, glabrous. Leaves 2–5 per ultimate branch; sheaths uniformly purple where exposed, becoming orange-yellow, glabrous, external margin apically densely ciliate; auricles absent; oral setae 5–8, erect, to 8 mm; ligule ca. 1 mm, truncate, purple, tomentose; external ligule not evident, glabrous; blade lanceolate, slightly thickened, adaxially glossy, 6–23 × 0.5–2.3 cm, base cuneate, glabrous or proximally slightly pilose abaxially, secondary veins 4–7-paired, margins spinescent-serrulate, transverse veins clear, petiole yellow-green. Inflorescence a condensed raceme, partially exserted from spathe, spikelets 5–11, 1–1.5 cm, rachilla internodes 1–2 mm; florets 2–4, green. Glumes 2, unequal, slightly pilose, apex acuminate or long-mucronate. Lemma apex long-mucronate. Palea 2-keeled, keels serrulate. Lodicules 3, purple, apically pubescent, margins ciliate. Anthers yellow. Ovary ovate, glabrous; style 1, stigmas 3, plumose. Caryopsis unknown. Shooting Jun–Aug.
Native to W Sichuan, 1700–2800 m, where shoots are an important source of food for the Giant Panda. Introductions differ in stature, leaf size and shape, density of culms and culm sheath bristles, and culm colour, but all are very vigorous and hardy producing an abundance of new culms each year, with contrasting pale culm sheaths. One introduction of F. robusta was sent from China under the name Fargesia scabrida. That would seem to have been a misidentification, as the description of F. scabrida suggests a species of Yushania or Borinda instead, while the introduced plant is clearly Fargesia.
Arriving at the time of flowering of Fargesia nitida and Fargesia murielae the timely introduction of this species partially filled a gap in the hardy clump-forming bamboos available for use in western horticulture, but it is not quite as hardy.
F. robusta has been introduced several times from Wolong and Pingwu in the vast and rugged mountainous areas of W Sichuan Province, initially by Julian Campbell in 1982 from Wolong Nature Reserve.