Herbaceous deciduous vines, glabrous. Root tuberous, huge, usually oblate, dark and grayish brown. Young branches slightly fleshy, often purplish red, glaucous, striate when dry. Petiole usually 4-6(-11) cm; leaf blade peltate, insertion 1-2 cm from margin, oblate, rarely rotund, 3-5(-7) × 5-6.5(-9) cm, membranous when dry, abaxially slightly glaucous, base usually rounded, apex rounded or occasionally cuspidate, palmately 8- or 9-veined, slender. Inflorescences simple umbelliform cymes, axillary, slightly fleshy, often purplish red and glaucous; peduncle of male inflorescences (0.5-)1-4 cm; cymelets few to 10, fascicled, 2- or 3(-7)-flowered. Male flowers: sepals 6, often purple, ovate or elliptic-ovate, 1.3-1.6 mm; petals 3 or occasionally 5 or 6, slightly fleshy, purple or orange with purple dots, broadly cuneate or subdeltoid, 0.4-0.7 mm; synandrium 0.4-0.5 mm. Female inflorescences similar to male inflorescences but denser; peduncle 1-3 cm. Female flowers unknown. Fruiting pedicels short and fleshy. Drupes red; endocarp obovate, 6-7 × ca. 5 mm. Fl. spring, fr. summer.
● Shrublands, along fences, roadsides. S Guizhou, S Sichuan, Yunnan.
Stephania epigaea is regarded as over-harvested for medicinal usage (Annex 2 of Identification and Conservation of Important Plant Areas for Medicinal Plants in the Himalaya, Plantlife).