How good is the taxonomy of rare species?

I’m am by no means a botanists but I like to play one in my free time. I live in Haiti and I’ve been making observations of all species around me that I can find.

I’m working right now to identify a plant to species level because I think that I’ve found a plant that hasn’t been observed for around 100 years. The trouble is that there are 30 species of this plant listed in gbif but most have no photographs, only dried samples and some have no pictures at all. When I compare the different species they look so similar I can’t help but wonder if some of them are the same species but just listed under different names. I also wonder what the point is of listing species that don’t have any sample at all. Why don’t we just delete those listings? How could I ever discern that I had found that one? Basically all this leads to my greater question, am I just frustrated with this identification because I’m not a trained botanist or could the problem be that the taxonomy of this genus needs work?

For anyone curious, the genus I’m struggling with is Koanophyllon.

Edit: I think that I wasn’t using gbif properly and wasn’t seeing samples that were available because I had searched by country.

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Don’t know anything about this genus, but … yes some groups are far less studied and the taxonomy more out of date than others. As for samples, presumably all named species have been sampled and the type material is somewhere in an herbarium, plus additional collections although this isn’t always the case. If it’s rare there likely isn’t much preserved material and good diagnostic photos might also be lacking. Maybe there is a recent taxonomic treatment of this genus in the scientific literature but you’ll have to do some internet searching to see. Good luck.

Edit: potentially there is only one species in this genus in your area, which would simplify the ID using just geographic distribution if you can find a source that provides distribution info.

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I have two, possibly three species to in this genus to identify. I have three types but I think that two of them may just be showing color variation of the same species.

Could be a great opportunity to get a series of good diagnostic photos for species that might not be well-photographed. Even if you have to leave your ID at genus, those photos could be useful to others in addition to yourself who are trying to sort out these plants.


Zoanophyllon is a split from Eupatorium. Most of the species were call Eupatorium for a long time. You may have to look under both names to find articles, photos, etc.

The taxonomy of this group has been revised relatively recently and probably needs more work.

iNaturalist lists 31 species of Koanophyllon from Hispaniola, which is a little more than 1/4 the total number of species in the genus. That’s a lot of variation, even in an area with such high habitat and taxonomic diversity. Suggests revision is needed.

iNaturalist seems not to have any photos under the names of any of those 31 species, though it does have a few called just Koanophyllum from Haiti. Not a lot to go with.

This is a problem where you could make serious contributions to botany. Take detailed photos of the plants. Leaf shape is important in the taxonomy of this group. Leaf hairiness (if any) should be noted. Putting in the photo something to measure with will help. The arrangement of flower heads on the stem matters. The phyllaries (bracts at the side of the flower head) are of some importance. Details of the flowers or seeds may be important, including the length of the pappus (the long hairs that help the fruit fly in the air). Also useful is the presence of absence of hairs on the receptacle (the “platform” left when you remove all the flowers or fruits).

The following would be very useful, but can be hard to prepare and to store; understandable if you don’t make them. Pressed plant specimens matched to the iNaturalist photos. Number each pressed plant and put that number of your iNaturalist observation, then also put the iNaturalist observation number on the label of the pressed plant.

I’ve been trying to find some good reference with keys for you, but I havent yet.


What are the three or so species you think you plant most closely resembles?

There should be a Key in the Flora of Hispaniola. Can not immediately find the right volume oline but here is one volume

That’s the only volume I was able to find on-line, too.

Thank you for this help. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I asked my question and then life caught up with me. I didn´t think about it again until my weekly email came in this morning and this thread was highlighted!

I´ll try to get these plants better photographed this week. Thanks for these pointers. I strongly suspect that one of these plants is going to be Koanophyllon delpechianum simply by the plants name. I live about 2km from Delpeche which is what this species is named after. The images would match well enough too. The trouble is that there are several others species that would match too. That’s basically what motivated this question. I was wondering if it was possible that some of the different species are in fact one species with multiple names.

Here’s a link to the observation:

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