How to handle Cactus species - deviating without deviations

There are two species in the genus Hamatocactus on iNat. 3-4 years ago, there was a discussion where those 2 species (and probably more in other genera) were moved from their original homes in Ferocactus and Thelocactus. POWO lists the original names as valid and names with Hamatocactus as synonyms. There is a link to this checklist in an older flag that appears to be the justification for the move

I encountered open flags on both species suggesting iNat return to the POWO names. I commented under these flags and tagged the user who performed the previous swap as well as active cactus identifiers for opinions. This was a few days ago and no one has responded. In the meantime, the species in question have been without any Taxon Framework relationship for 3 years.

First question seems like an obvious answer: Should I set up deviations?

Secondly, not just POWO but other sources including USDA PLANTS, the online encyclopedia of cactus, Flora of North America, and World Flora Online (via all use the original names. At what point do I swap them back, if no one responds or objects?

P.S. I know that last part might be over the line in terms of what should be discussed in the forum versus on the flags.

it seems to me primarily that you should wait more than just “a few days” for responses. people are busy; many of my colleagues don’t visit iNaturalist every week, let alone every day, and when they do they don’t always have time for every tag. if the taxon entries have gotten along fine, in a manner of speaking, for three years… then they can get along fine for a few more days, weeks, or even months. I have had flags I opened myself, commented on, or watched go for that amount of time with no response. this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t re-up it in terms of re-tagging people, commenting again, et cetera in order to keep the discussion active if necessary – just that a period of mere days is a very short time in which to expect significant input.

to the actual question, it seems to me that you could set up, but not commit, swaps if the generic placement seems like a point of consensus between so many taxonomic aggregators / sources. but again, I don’t really understand why there is any rush to get changes implemented, so I would leave it be until you get a few responses.


You will want to be familiar with this long and still open flag on family Cactaceae:

Agreed. Wait longer. Tag people a 2nd time if they don’t respond the first. I’ll often intentionally leave flags open for several months before committing changes which may be considered controversial.

(Although I have recently learned that some people care about subspecies a lot more than I personally do, and committed a change which upset a few people recently. I should have left that flag open for more than a week)


I think at least a few weeks is warranted for larger taxonomic changes.

In general, I would say wait time to commit increases with:
Number of taxa involved
Number of observations involved
Complexity of change
Difficulty of reversing change
Number of active curators/taxonomic experts engaged with taxon (to make sure that they have a chance to chime in)

Since iNat seems to have been chugging along in this specific situation without a lot of confusion or negative impact, there doesn’t seem to be a huge urgency, so I’d wait longer after people have been tagged.

1 Like

From my notifications, I know that these cactus identifiers are active daily. I also know there is no rush and I drafted swaps already.

No one answered my first question about deviations, but it seems like a good idea to set them up.

1 Like

then I’ll say it in more personal terms: I am active daily on iNaturalist, but I get so many tags or other notifications that I have a standing pile of (as of right now) 150 notifications. I have other things to do than spend all of my work breaks, off-hours, and mealtimes poring through that heap. even when I do read something, it sometimes takes me days or weeks to respond if it requires me to dredge up literature and write an informed response to flags that unjustifiably cite POWO for an underinformed decision. I am not saying this is what’s happening here, or that your cactus identifiers couldn’t potentially respond sooner. I’m saying that most botanists or any other users involved are probably going to need some time to deal with the tags et cetera especially if they need to express a view at odds with the consensus picked up by taxonomic aggregators.

to your question about deviations, I would also not bother. since the taxa have been fine without them, and there’s a large probability that you’ll just be assisting in switching to POWO, that’s just more work performed in advance of your actually knowing the outcome.


I agree, because it shows that the discrepancy with POWO is intentional, and should be discussed before changing. Otherwise a random curator might think the discrepancy was out of neglect and automatically align it with POWO.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.