Understanding the Relationship With iNat's Taxonomical System as it relates to 3rd Party Taxonomical Systems

The more I’ve gotten into botany on this website, the more I’ve noticed that there are many different taxonomic systems that are currently in use at any given time. While I have my personal favorites, I finally read up on how iNat has attempted to address this issue for a variety of taxonomical subgroups by pegging those to a specific 3rd Party Source. However, in going down this rabbit hole, I have found some outlier taxa that do not seem to follow the stated taxonomical 3rd party source according to iNat’s stated attempts at organization.

In particular, I’ve noticed two deviations between iNat and KEW Plants of the World Online, iNat’s stated taxonomical system for vascular plants other than ferns. I have so far flagged 2 taxa that seem to conflict, but considering how fast I noticed the issue, I’m sure I’ll encounter many more as I explore.

Does anyone have any advice on how to deal with this issue? Should I keep reporting taxa that seem to disagree with KEW POWO or other agreed upon 3rd party taxonomies, or is it more complicated than that? Perhaps, certain concessions have been made for certain taxa when KEW seems to be behind the curve of scientific discovery, for example.

Really looking for any advice for understanding this issue, which may be a simple one or may be more complex than I could ever imagine.

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I recommend checking the taxon pages to see if there were any curation flags which might explain or justify deviations. In some cases deviations are made from authorities, so we don’t expect iNat taxonomy to be in 100% alignment with any given authority, for plants or animals.


if you go to the Taxon page, then look at Taxonomy tab, then click on Taxonomy Details in the box on the right side of the page, that should take you to a page that potentially explains deviations.

for example, if you look at genus Pisum, the taxonomy details page notes a deviation from POW, along with a link to a discussion of that.


You might also want to check out this page which explains the various ways iNat’s taxonomy links to external sources.


Just my point of view: disagreements with POWO are woth being reported as long as the treatment made in POWO for a specific taxon is the best available. POWO is a good database and it works well as a taxonomic backbone but it is not free from errors.
I would suggest you, when you notice a discrepancy from POWO, to verify if:

  1. it has already been addressed in iNaturalist
  2. it is in line with other treatments that can be found in the current scientific literature

Anyway, in my opinion, before proposing a taxonomic change, when there are some conflicting treatments, it would be good to ask other more experienced users for a discussion on each specific case.

Thank you to all for your suggestions. I have answered my own question. I hadn’t realized that I could search through a taxon’s previous flags…if there are any. This essentially eliminates my dilemma, and allows me to make an informed decision about whether an additional flag is necessary because, as far as I can tell, the entire discussion about the previous flags is fully available to the public (even a non-curator like me).


Just want to add some comments to the discussion. Due to many synonyms the iNat database sometimes ends up with several species pages for a single taxon.

The Capparaceae of the Caribbean were a big mess not so long ago, with many taxa having two or even 3 species pages. It seems somebody cleaned up this mess lately. Thanks a lot at this place to the unknown curator who made the effort!!!

A single taxon of Caribbean Capparaceae seems to have escaped the cleanup and still has 3 species pages:
Powo calles this taxon Morisonia cynophallophora https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77183582-1
Here the 3 taxon pages in iNat for this species:

Another species with 2 different taxon pages, is the single known Hispaniolan species of the genus Myscelia (the Hispaniolan Bluewing).
Gbif calls it Myscelia antholia https://www.gbif.org/es/species/1901258
And in butterflies of America it is called Myscelia aracynthia https://butterfliesofamerica.com/myscelia_aracynthia.htm
These two iNat pages would need some cleanup/merging:

Thanks in advance to the curator willing to merge these dublicates…

Oh finding some more Capperaceae with 2 species pages in iNat:
In case i posted the information at the wrong place. well it might be a database bug report …

Now that you mention it, I think I remember being confused by the Quadrella/Capparis issue on iNat in the past, but didn’t really know enough to understand if my confusion was warranted. I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with iNat or a problem with my understanding of taxonomy.

best to flag one of the genera for curation. There’s an open flag here: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/484515


Flag is from 2019, at least 2 years old and maybe long forgotten??? Thanks for sharing my comment there.

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