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Stems up to 10 ft high, 3⁄8 in. in diameter, erect and leafless the first year, very dark purple, round and hollow, very crowded; branching the second season and becoming heavily laden with foliage at the top, then arching and very graceful. Stem-sheaths purplish, downy, measuring with the tongue at the apex 2 to 4 in. long, which is about the distance the stem joints are apart. Leaves 2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄8 in. wide, rounded at the base, finely pointed, vividly green above, somewhat glaucous beneath; secondary veins three or four each side the midrib, very faintly defined in the fresh leaf, but conspicuous enough in the dry; margins very minutely bristly on one side.
Native of Central and W. China; introduced by way of St Petersburg in 1889, and one of the very hardiest of bamboos. It withstood the bitter weather of February 1895 better than any other species, and scarcely lost a leaf; but this evergreen character appears to belong only to young plants. Since then, the same plants have often lost nearly all their leaves even in comparatively mild winters. The stems are never injured. This bamboo is of extraordinarily vigorous growth, sending up every year a crowd of new stems, which are erect and remain leafless except at the tips throughout the first winter; the second season the branches develop, and as the foliage increases in bulk the stems arch outwards, and the whole plant becomes an object of surpassing elegance. It has to be mentioned that no bamboo is more susceptible to intense sunshine and dryness at the root, conditions whose presence is immediately indicated by the temporary curling up of the leaves. It should be given a semi-shaded spot, and abundant moisture. Easily distinguished from all other bamboos by its round, black-purple stems.
After some eighty years in cultivation, A. nitida presents an aged appearance in the clumps where it has been allowed to grow without division and replanting, but so far there are no signs of flowering in this desirable garden plant.
Mr Bean wrote in previous editions: ‘If I were restricted to the cultivation of one bamboo, this would be my choice.’ I feel sure that now he would have great difficulty in making the choice between it and the, to my mind, more attractive A. murielae. C. E. H.
David McClintock has pointed out that A. nitida does not always have glaucous stems. There are green-stemmed clones in cultivation, which could be confused with A. murieliae, but their leaves are shorter, less tapered at the apex.