Change how the site handles hybrid taxa

I like the idea of being able to automatically “construct” hybrid taxa by linking two species. As long as there’s some reasonable way to vote for it. I’ve found hybrids that I have never seen descriptions of and it would be great to be able to track them (or have people refute them). Not juggling votes to vote for it because the discourse voting system may be removed at some point from this forum

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Except votes are probably how the staff work out what people actually want or not…there’s a trend with number of votes and whether threads fade into the void or not!

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Some of the staff and moderators have been discussing removing the voting system because it isn’t working as desired

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I find hybrids to be absolutely fascinating, and I would love to see this implemented. I feel like we’re missing out on tons of really good data by having so many hybrids just sitting at genus level, lost in a sea of the blurry unidentified observations.

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Chiming in here as a user and curator on the site…

I would love to have better tools to help create hybrid taxa, link them to their parent species, etc. So I support the feature request for those reasons, assuming they would be technically feasible.

I’m not in favor, however, of doing away with the current curatorial guidance on judicious use of hybrid taxa. I think removing that would create some slippery slopes that curators would later regret.

For example, do we want to encourage every orchid enthusiast to post their favorite hybrid cultivar, and ask the curators to create the right hybrid taxon for it? (Assuming the name they have is even correct?)

More generally, someone posts an observation and says, it’s A x B, please create that taxon for me. Then someone comments, no, I disagree, that’s A x C, please create that taxon too so I can post a disagreeing ID. Etc.

I think scenarios like the above are some of the reasons for the wording in the existing curatorial guidance.

That said, we have relaxed the curatorial guidance in some specific cases, where there was discussion on a flag and some consensus was reached. That works for me, but not a complete wild-west of hybrid taxa.


Hybrids are really important in nature - they are the first step to introgression, and introgression allows many species to acquire new alleles and traits and adapt.

Anyone who suspects they are looking at a hybrid, and can suggest a possible parentage, should be encouraged to do so! And they should be encouraged to distinguish between “suspected hybrid” and “known hybrid”.


Then again Jim, is letting people make infinite hybrid taxa much different to letting a curator make any species taxa? If they are making a lot of hybrids I would hope that they are actually finding legitimate mixed parentage which is worth documenting. Curators abusing the taxon creator without proper backing is an issue that occurs outside of hybrids, too.

I guess I would want to see examples of this being a widespread issue. But without derailing the focus here on hybrid taxa, I think raising taxa that deviate from our guiding documents and taxonomic references, without discussion and consensus first, should be discouraged whether or not hybrid taxa are involved. The less certain nature of hybrid taxa and their parentage (in general), relative to most “regular” species (in general), will inherently make this more of an issue for proposed hybrid taxa.

Definitely agree with this. And I would say suspected hybrids can be noted in comments, and known hybrids can be added as taxa.


I have photographed some hybrids, in groups known to hybridize. I’d like something better than the genus name to use for them. When they’ve been named (Genus x nothospecies), it’s simple, but some don’t have names and I still want to get some kind of name made. I’ve put in one flag to request one (Raphanus), but no news.

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One thing that does remind me of is that a solution needs to be able to handle a unique name for the hybrid, if one exists. Carex x inserthybridname as opposed to a default Carex species1 x species2.


That Raphanus hybrid (if you mean sativus and raphanistrum) is a bit complicated, else I’d have already made it. I think sativus is already a hybrid with raphanistrum taxonomically, and I’m not positive on how they should all be treated.

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There are a few wrinkles that need to be accommodated.

Firstly, hybrids are usually listed alphabetically (i.e. Leucospermum cordifolium x lineare) if the female parent is unknown, but where known the seed parent is listed first. This will need to be accommodated.

Secondly, there are many triple and quadruple hybrids: many Leucospermum cultivars on iNaturalist from California are 4-way crosses. How will iNat cope with this? Do you propose selecting one hybrid and adding it to another (species or hybrid) as parents in the tool?

Thirdly, many hybrids have many cultivar names. These are simply “common” names, and iNat copes with these quite well (e.g.×-salignum - those listed are just the most commonly cultivated cultivars). The beauty is that anyone who knows that they have “Jester” will get the correct hybrid name if they enter it in the ID box. I presume that your notes on the standard “common name” do not preclude the addition afterwards of the additional common names.

I disagree that × should be replaced by “x” in the “species” name. But the “search” within an ID box should regard an “x” as equivalent to the × in the name. And I have requested that the × be available somewhere on the “create a taxon page” for copy-pasting, because finding one to insert into the name (or remembering its ascii code) is a pain. But that simple expedience is still outstanding. But having it automatically convert on saving is cool (provided it copes with multiple instances of “x”).

Lastly, I would prefer it if hybrids listed at the end of the lists on the taxon pages, rather than intermingled with the species names: e.g. (taxonomy tab).

otherwise I wholeheartedly agree with the original proposals.


I think the curator guide’s suspicious attitude re: hybrids is spot-on, and I’m honestly a little bit alarmed by the number of people in this thread that want to loosen our attitude toward identifying hybrid taxa.

In vascular plants, I’ve seen many instances where people will confidently assert that a specimen is a hybrid, but don’t seem to have considered alternative hypotheses to account for its apparent deviation from the typical appearance of the species (simple genetic variance, phenotypic plasticity, polyploidy, introgression, ancient hybridization, ur-populations that have since diverged in other regions, etc., etc.). Some of these involve hybridization, but they are quite distinct from a simple F1 generation.

I can see how this might be different in the vertebrate world, where Mayr’s Biological Species Concept is sometimes more practical. It’s probably simpler when hybridization is restricted basically to the F1 generation.

I really like the idea of a simple flag for “suspected hybrid”, maybe with check-boxes for suspected parentage. I think @pjmatthews is right on-the-money with his suggestion.


But you know, some of us do actually know we’re looking at hybrid populations. For example, a variable population of Iris chrysophylla x Iris tenax in an area where both parents occur. Or those Raphanus sativus x raphanistrum hybrids.


Another cause of false reports of hybrids: undescribed species! A problem in Lomatium and Sedum and no doubt others.


Tony, I would guess multi-way hybrids are beyond the scope here since. For one because they are probably extreme cases, and in addition because the parentage is usually hard to determine in those cases as well (especially in terms of wild or “naturalized” plants, which is likely where this is most important). I think there are very, very few cases where we’d have to make a multi-way hybrid that does not fit these previously mentioned instances. Again that is mostly speaking for plants considered “wild”, not garden cultivars where the exact parentage may well be known, and not uniquely named (but most seem to be, e.g. Viola wittrockiana).

My note on common names is just for the automatic page creation. If there is a unique common name, your example with Leucadendron for instance, that can be added as normal and even moved so that it becomes the “priority” name.

I don’t want to replace × with x in the species name – rather the reverse, to prevent taxon pages being created with x instead of ×.


I agree. I meant that for users searching in the ID box, the X should be treated as an ×. Even for those who know it is not an X, finding the code is is a pain. Fortunately this works:


avoiding multi-way hybrids will also help avoid the problem mentioned above of people spam-adding commercial orchid hybrids


Could we at least have this one addressed? Part 1 of this three-part proposal is, in my opinion, a bug for Bug Reports, not a feature request. I feel most people would reasonably expect (as I did earlier today) that a search for “woodsia x gracilis” would find it that way, and not have to type “woodsia × gracilis” or “woodsia gracilis” instead.


I was reminded of this issue when I saw this number and assumed there were 27 oak species in Ontario, when actually 13 of the taxa listed are just hybrids. I don’t think that makes sense.