Description from Flora of China
Herbs, erect, 50-110 cm tall. Stem and petiole sparsely spreading pubescent or glabrous. Leaves 3-foliolate; petiole 2-12 cm; terminal leaflet blade variable in shape and size, broadly ovate, ovate, or rhombic to narrowly lanceolate. Racemes or panicles, terminal or terminal and axillary, 20-30 cm, elongated to 40 cm at fruiting, often 2-flowered at each node. Pedicel 2-4 mm, elongated to 5-6 mm at fruiting. Calyx ca. 2 mm; lobes shorter than tube. Corolla purplish red, ca. 4 mm; standard broadly obovate; wings narrowly elliptic; keel similar to wings, not clawed. Ovary stipitate. Legume ca. 1.6 cm, often 2-jointed; articles slightly broadly subobovate, 5-10 × 3-4 mm, with hooked and minute straight hairs; stipe 3-5 mm; fruiting pedicel ca. 6 mm. 2n = 22*.
The whole plant including the root bark is used medicinally for reducing fever and curing malaria.
The Hylodesmum podocarpum complex is extremely variable in the shape of the terminal leaflets, although the taxa resemble each other in having laxly flowered inflorescences, small flowers, non-clawed wings and keel petals, broadly subobovate small articles, and similar areas of distribution. The taxonomic ranks for these infraspecific taxa are somewhat confusing. Huang considers the complex to consist of one species, Podocarpium podocarpum, including four varieties, while Ohashi and Mill (loc. cit.) consider it to consist of Hylodesmum podocarpum and three subspecies, one of which contains a variety.
Roadsides, grassy slopes, grasslands on high mountains, mountain slopes, forests, thickets, forest margins, ditches; 100-2100 m. Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, ?Hainan, Hebei, E Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Jilin, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia (Far East), Vietnam].