Many plant species accepted names not found on iNat - what source does iNat use for these?

I’ve been building a species check-list for my project area and have been manually adding species.

A large number of plant species names are simply not recognized by iNat, nor by the external name provider iNat uses. Which sources does iNat rely on for the name recognition?

I’ve been checking names against

The examples of accepted plant species names not being found on iNat are too numerous to list, but here a few examples from a brief list from the last batch I’ve been adding (these examples are listed as accepted names, not synonyms, by

Actinodaphne pilosa
Beilschmiedia obovalifoliosa
Beilschmiedia percoriacea
Caryodaphnopsis tonkinensis
Cinnamomum bonii

and many more.

Are there any plans to update the plant species name list in the future so as to have a more comprehensive iNat database?


You might find this related discussion thread informative:

In short, names are added to the iNat database as needed. It is not the objective of the site to have a complete taxonomic database, only to the extent needed to support observations and IDs. I can’t speak to a policy (if any) about building checklists that extend beyond actual observations or IDs.

From the Curator Guide, the site’s current taxonomic framework for vascular plants is:

Vascular plants (Tracheophyta) : Kew’s Plants of the World Online (POWO) with deviations described here. As of August 2018, current policy excludes following POWO for ferns and genera that start with “P”. See this journal post for more information.


Thanks for the info.

I’ve found that check-list for an area is extremely helpful for a general reference and for people who pass through and don’t have access to the off-line info for an area. In places like the link you provided (China), where I’m working (SE Asia, Vietnam), and elsewhere where there are not a lot of iNat users it’s very helpful to have a resource people can browse to get an idea of what should be in the area and to assist with initial identifications.

The different ways people use iNat to get the most out of it is one of the challenges facing the platform.


Sure! If you have a long list of names accepted by POWO that you need for your checklist, you might be able to get them added en masse by emailing (I make no guarantees whether they would be able to prioritize something like that.)

For a shorter list (couple dozen maybe), probably best to follow the standard practice of going to the parent genus page (or family if needed), flagging it for curation, and asking the curatorial team to add the relevant taxon or taxa.

Either way, for any names not accepted by POWO, those would need further discussion first to see if there is consensus for a deviation from POWO, before being added to the iNat taxonomy.


Hmm… I just checked a few of the sample names I provided against the POWO database and they’re accepted by it, but I guess iNat doesn’t automatically read them upon request.

Yes, I think that may be because POWO doesn’t use predictable formulaic URLs for their taxon pages, just numeric identifiers.

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@jdmore there is a potential workaround though:

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As far as I’m aware, iNat only searches Encyclopedia of Life and Catalogue of Life for taxon names when you click that “search external name providers” button. But there’s a ton of overlap between POWO and those databases, so in most cases I find that it works.


Note that adding names to iNat does not automatically add them to any particular checklists. That has to be done separately.

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Yeah, I’m adding them specifically to a check-list page for a project I’m running. Adding the plants is a slow process though as there are over 1,700 species for the island and the list I have is riddled with spelling errors, outright wrong names, unresolved names, and accepted names that aren’t recognized by iNat. Takes a while, but that’s ok.

I use the “search external name providers” function extensively. I included the examples I did because, despite being accepted names, even using that function didn’t return any results.


They’re all in there now. :) Feel free also to just flag Plantae, then in a comment you can paste the list of the ones you’re running into not coming up in external name providers search.


I’m not sure if you are aware of this but curators do not have a bulk add tool either, it is equally slow for us as we need to do them one at a time manually as well. This is one of the reasons curators typically will ask for, and respond much quicker for specific limited requests, not something like ‘add every missing species from China’.



I’ll probably have to make a second run through the species list once I’ve made a first pass and use that to properly correct everything on the master-list. Once that’s done I’ll put in some requests, but until that I’ll slog along as I have been.


Makes sense. It’s too bad there isn’t a bulk add tool for curators, but I can see that leading to all sorts of inadvertent errors if there were one.

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