Plant names used in Australia are not accepted

Very often plant names accepted and used in Australia are not accepted by iNaturalist. This seems to be because iNaturalist is using the Kew Plant List, which is inaccurate for Australia and not at all suitable when we have our own well managed plant names database - Australian Plant Name Index. I have only made a few observations but already have encountered several that are not ‘accepted’ by iNaturalist - this makes iNaturlist scientifically inaccurate, unreliable and confusing. This is a major problem to users in Australia.


This could be useful for you


Welcome to the Forum @fzich!

I had the same reaction for some of my favorite North American plant names when I first became active on iNaturalist. And the same will be true anywhere else in the world.

This is because, by practical necessity, a global site like iNaturalist has to use a global standard for it’s “default” taxonomy, so that a taxon is known by one name no matter where in world it may be observed. It would be impossible to maintain that kind of global consistency if iNaturalist tried to maintain overlapping regional taxonomies (overlapping because many species occur in multiple regions, despite the many other Australian endemics).

That said, deviations from the default standard (in this case Plants of the World Online or POWO, maintained at Kew) are permitted with sufficient justification. Deviations are initiated by going to the page for the taxon of interest, choosing “Flag for Curation,” and providing supporting information for why a different taxonomy should be followed. If there is sufficient consensus in the community, site curators can implement the deviation.

Since Australia has its own iNaturalist node, you might also contact the administrators there for more information on how they reconcile the Australian Plant Name Index with POWO.

I definitely understand the confusion that can result when two different scientific names are accepted by different sources for the same plant. But this by itself does not make either source scientifically inaccurate or unreliable. It just means that they are using different taxonomic interpretations.


Agree strongly on the point you make on the quoted statement. Synonyms are acceptable, if somewhat annoying to use.

Fzich, one thing I do for the few taxa I have observed that are under different names on iNat than what I would use as a practicing biologist in California, is noting the name that is accepted in California in the Notes section.

Fzich, one other thing. When I type a California-accepted name in, the iNat platform will show me the iNat-accepted name. Does that happen for you with the Aussie-accepted names you are entering? If you aren’t getting that, I could see how big an issue that would be, since you wouldn’t know what name would be the one iNat recognizes. If that’s the case, I would agree also with the advise about contacting the Aussie admins about how Aussie plant list is reconciled with the one for iNat.


Hi @fzich Welcome.

I think you might have just been “lucky” with your observations, if lucky is the correct word (I think it is, because you’re seeing stuff that is not commonly seen and brought to attention!) I spend a fair amount of time looking at plant names on iNat, APC/APNI/ALA, Flora NSW, Census Qld Flora etc and find the amount of agreement between all, in general, is pretty good. There are of course instances where there are disagreements, as you’ve pointed out, but there are differences between the accepted botanical names in the Census of the Queensland Flora (Queensland Herbarium) and APC/APNI as well. Even within Australia I have to remember that some of the names I use in Queensland are not accepted by, say, NSW and I have to remember this when discussing things with people from other Australian states let alone the rest of the world.

Most of the time these differences can be, and usually are, resolved by flagging the taxon or genus to bring it to the attention of curators.


We have the same issue in New Zealand. Our first response has been to alert the Plants of the World staff at Kew to any Australasian taxonomic changes that they haven’t caught up on. They’ve been quite responsive.

iNat doesn’t have the capability to run off regional names databases that contradict one another, so defaulting to POWO and deviating on iNat only when absolutely necessary seems like the best option (short of the world investing vastly more in taxonomy than it currently does).


Yes. For Australian plant names where POWO differs from APC generally an email to POWO can clear things up pretty quickly, especially when you provide supporting references and/or literature, and they’ve always responded promptly to me as well.
For the differences between Australian herbaria I just live with it and cross-reference with APC/ALA


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