Rhizomes normally horizontal for only a short distance before turning up to form a culm, sometimes hollow-centered, air canals sometimes present. Culms 0.5-1 (1.8) m tall, 0.2-0.6 cm thick; internodes terete. Culm leaves persistent to tardily deciduous; sheaths 5.5-11 cm; fimbriae 1-4.6 mm; blades 0.8-1.4 cm. Topknots of 6-12 leaves; blades 9-22.5 cm long, 1.4-2.8 cm wide, linear, linear-lanceolate, or ovate-lanceolate. Primary branches usually shorter than 35 cm, erect, terete, with 2-5 compressed basal internodes, basal nodes not developing secondary branches. Foliage leaves: abaxial ligules glabrous or ciliate, fimbriate or lacerate; blades 5-20 cm long, 0.8-2 cm wide, chartaceous, deciduous, bases rounded, abaxial surfaces pilose or glabrous, weakly cross veined, adaxial surfaces pilose. Spikelets 3-5.5 cm, usually somewhat reddish purple, with 5-8 florets. 2n = unknown.
Arundinaria appalachiana grows on moist to dry slopes and in seeps. It is restricted to the southern Appalachians and upper piedmont.