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Stems tufted, 3 to 4 ft high, about as thick as a knitting-needle, slightly hollow, dark purplish green, from a creeping rhizome. Stem-sheaths persistent, edged with minute hairs. Leaves 3 to 81⁄2 in. long, 1⁄3 to 11⁄4 in. wide, rounded, or even slightly heart-shaped at the base, fine-pointed, dark green always more or less striped with rich golden yellow. These yellow stripes vary in width and number, often the major part of the leaf is golden, with only thin lines of green. Secondary veins five to seven each side the midrib. The upper surface is at first minutely downy, and becomes rough to the touch with age; the lower surface remains velvety.
Native of Japan; cultivated since the ‘seventies of last century, probably before, and long known as “Bambusa fortunei aurea”. In its full late summer leafage it is a beautifully variegated plant, and quite distinct from all other dwarf bamboos. A few stems flower most years at Kew, but they are often hidden by the leaves of other shoots and consequently overlooked; flowering has also been observed in other gardens. The flowering shoots, bearing one to three spikelets at their tips, also have narrower and shorter leaves than usual. Up to 1969 there has been no general flowering of this attractive bamboo.
The occasional flower production by this species does not affect the foliage, which is at its most vivid if the stems are cut to the ground each year.