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Incense Bamboo - Phyllostachys atrovaginata

English Name: Incense Bamboo
Chinese Name: 乌芽竹
Synonym: Phyllostachys congesta
Max Height: 30 Feet (9 m)
Max Diameter: 2.75 inches (7 cm)
Minimum Temp: -5°F (-21°C)
Light Exposure: Full sun
Rhizome System: Running (leptomorph)


Phyllostachys atrovagiata is a useful ornamental bamboo and is commonly cultivated in the United States. The culms are wide and green, but its max height is substantially lower than most other timber bamboos. This species has the unique distinction of emitting a subtle fragrance that is often described as having a similar aroma to sandalwood. This fragrance can be released in warm weather or by rubbing the culms with your hand. Its shoots are edible and contain little to no bitterness when consumed raw. It is native to China, and was introduced into the US in the early 20th century.

Physical Description

The culms of Phyllostachys atrivaginata grow short and thick. The culms taper quickly at the top of the stock, making the diameter of the culms disproportionate to height, as compared to other Phyllostachys varieties. They are green in color. New shoots typically emerge in mid-spring (April) and have a unique wavy pattern, with the culm sheaths showing a dark green color.

Habitat and Location

Found throughout the Pacific Northwest USA. Assumed to be native to China, although its specific origins are unknown. First introduced into the United States in the early 20th century.

Common Uses

This bamboo is commonly used as a short hedge or privacy screen. This species has the unique benefit of large diameter canes, with a short (30ft.) overall height. There are no significant commercial or industrial uses for this species.

Culinary Uses

The shoots of Phyllostachys atrovaginata are among the best in the world. Shoots can be consumed raw or cooked, and are nearly free of bitterness. It is a popular choice in a variety of Asian dishes.


Incense bamboo grows well in many regions throughout the world. It is cold hardy to -5°F (-21°C). The rhizomes of this species have developed air canals, making it more viable in wet or soggy soils. This makes the bamboo an ideal choice for growing near water of streams. It is an invasive running bamboo and control techniques should be used if rapid spreading is not desired.



phyllostachys atrovaginata roots
Root System of Phyllostachys atrovaginata


Incense bamboo culm
Phyllostachys atrovaginata culm