Description from Flora of China
Dioscorea changjiangensis F. W. Xing & Z. X. Li; D. codonopsidifolia Kamikoti.
Tubers irregular, usually long ovoid; transverse section white when fresh, becoming brown; roots fibrous. Stem twining to left, sparsely puberulent, glabrescent, prickly. Bulblets present. Leaves alternate, palmately 3--7-foliolate; petiole 5--11 cm, densely reddish brown pubescent; leaflets ovate to lanceolate, 6.5--24 × 1.5--9 cm, adaxially glabrous, abaxially appressed pubescent, sometimes glabrescent, pinnately veined, base attenuate into a ± tomentose petiolule, margin entire, apex acute. Male spikes in axillary panicles to 50 cm, often with long, lateral branches; axis brown pubescent. Male flowers: sessile or subsessile; bract and bracteole reniform, forming an involucel around perianth, sparsely hairy, apex cuspidate; stamens 3. Female spikes simple or branched, brown puberulent. Female flowers: bracts, perianth, and ovary hairy. Capsule black at maturity, long ellipsoid, 2--2.5 cm, thinly leathery, sparsely hairy; wings 0.5--0.6 cm wide. Seeds inserted near apex of capsule; wing pointing toward capsule base. Fl. Aug--Oct, fr. Nov--Feb.
Dioscorea pentaphylla is an extremely widespread and variable species, such that Prain and Burkill recognized a total of 16 varieties in their revision of Asian species of Dioscorea. Synonyms based on material from outside China are not listed here. Dioscorea changjiangensis was recently described from an apparently distinctive collection from Hainan, but, when this is considered within the total range of variation shown by the species, we believe that it has to be included within D. pentaphylla. Dioscorea codonopsidifolia known only from the type collection from N Taiwan, is also included here for similar reasons. Most Chinese material has a reddish brown indumentum but this is not constant for the species throughout its range.
Scrub forests, forest margins; 500--1500 m. S Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, S Hunan, S Jiangxi, Taiwan, SE Xizang (Mêdog Xian), Yunnan [Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan (Okinawa), Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Philippines, Vietnam; Africa, Australia, Pacific Islands].