Phyllostachys atrovaginata is a running bamboo with strongly tapered stiff upright culms. It may reveal a fragrant scent during warm weather or when vigorously rubbed.  The common name of "Incense Bamboo" comes from the unique aroma.  Its culms grow large in diameter relative to height.  Maximum height can reach 10 meters (33 feet) with a maximum culm diameter of 7 cm (2.75 inches).  This bamboo grows in areas ranging from subtropical to temperate and tolerates winter temperatures down to -23°C (-10°F),   being a more cold hardy bamboo.  Like water bamboo, the rhizomes and roots of this species also have air canals as an adaptation for living in wet soil.  The botanical Latin "atrovaginata" or "dark-sheathed" is inspired from the dark green and deep red wine colors of the culm sheaths.  Phyllostachys atrovaginata has formerly often been called Phyllostachys congesta.  
Edible shoots can be harvested in springtime from this cultivated species, while the culms can be used split or unsplit for weaving or crafting bamboo articles.