Recently Described Mexican Plant Named after iNaturalist/

Meet Gonolobus naturalistae, a new species of plant described in a paper published last November. This is the first species named after iNaturalist, or more specifically which is the Mexican node of the iNaturalist Network administered in partnership with the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO). Naturalista was launched in 2013 as the first node of the network which now has 15 national nodes. Under the leadership of Carlos Galindo-Leal (@carlos2), the Naturalista team at CONABIO continues to do incredible work integrating iNaturalist into local outreach and conservation efforts. The decision of the authors to use their discovery as an opportunity to honor Naturalista is a testament to the impact of this work.

The story of Gonolobus naturalistae begins with Fernando Pio-León (@pioleon), a botanist in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, who came across some plants in the genus Gonolobus back in 2016 and 2017. Neither he nor other members of the Naturalista community could identify them beyond genus as their characteristics didn’t match any known species. He suspected they were an as yet undescribed species, but further investigation didn’t occur for another two years, when Fernando contacted Lupita Chávez Hernández (@lupitachavezhdez).

The following are recollections by all three coauthors of the paper describing Gonolobus naturalistae. They have been lightly edited for clarity.

Fernando: I became acquainted with Naturalista when I was studying for my doctorate and, in a moment of semi-depression, exploring, observing and identifying plants on Naturalista became a welcome escape. Currently I use Naturalista as a quick way to create an additional documentation of my botanical records. 

[In 2019] I noticed that a user on Naturalista had begun to identify various species in the family Apocynaceae, so I sent her a message asking for her opinion [of my Gonolobus observations]. [She] said she would take a look at the plants and bring it up with her thesis advisor, Dr. Leonardo Alvarado-Cárdenas (@leonardoac). Several months later, Lupita told me that after reviewing the species with Leo, they also believed it was something new and needed material to analyze. Almost a year later, during the 21st Congress of Mexican Botany, I finally had the opportunity to meet them in person and donate samples of the Gonolobus for them to analyze in the herbarium at UNAM. After doing so, they told me that indeed it was a new species and that the next step was to describe it in a publication.

Lupita: My uncle Belem Hernández (@belemqueuedelapin) [introduced me to Naturalista]. [He] is a strong proponent of community science, he is a very active Naturalista user, and is enthusiastic about documenting the diversity of the area where he lives. Since then I have not stopped using the Naturalista and marveling at its benefits. 

After reviewing the group and the species reported for the area, Leonardo (@leonardoac) and I, who work on Apocynaceae taxonomy, confirmed [to Fernando] that it was a new species with a distribution restricted to Sinaloa and Chihuahua.

Leonardo: The next step was to think of the name, which was not an easy thing. Several names were suggested, related to the structure of the flower or its distribution. [But] after a series of discussions, we decided that it would be a good idea to honor Naturalista for several reasons. 

Fernando: When I heard that, I was fascinated by the idea since Naturalista had been the means through which we coauthors were able to connect and describe the new species. I also thought of all the collaborations that had taken place on the platform that I was busy compiling for a conference organized by CONABIO - some of which we cited in the article.

Naturalista has definitely changed both the way I interact with nature and how I do research. Every time I visit a new place now I find myself documenting plants and other species. It’s really motivated me to identify and learn about new species, since I can quickly make an observation and worry about identifying it and doing a literature review later on. All the other users also help out a lot. When I make identifications for others, seeing species that I do not know motivates me to review the literature and help identify them.

Lupita: Leonardo and I work in Mexico City and it is not easy to go out to collect in northern areas like Sinaloa, so the use of Naturalista made that aspect much easier - the distance was reduced to a click on the computer!

Leonardo: The use of Naturalista has become a constant activity within our group, and it has allowed us to study many species in greater detail than just pressed herbarium material, which lacks many important characteristics such as color, general appearance, habitat and who can visit it. Based on all of this, we decided to go with using the name Naturalista as a specific epithet for the new species. We hope this decision highlights the work of the platform and the people who work on it...among many other things, it allows to tell success stories such as the discovery of new species and the creation of links between colleagues in different parts of the country and the world.

Lupita: I have always thought that involving citizens in the construction and dissemination of scientific knowledge is essential. Only in this way can we know and value the biodiversity that surrounds us and ensure its conservation. Naturalista allows [collaboration between scientists and the community at large] to be done in a simple and fun way, so its contribution to science is worthy of being recognized with the name of a new species.

Since Naturalista began in México, it has become the largest citizen science network in the country with over 90,000 people registered, 2.7 million observations of 37,000 species. We invite more researchers to collaborate. Let’s improve our knowledge of biodiversity in Mexico and in the world together!!

In addition to helping discover new species, Fernando, along with his botanist mentor Dr. Rito-Vega, have been studying endemic Sinaloan plants for his postdoctoral work. This has led to the first iNat/Naturalista observations of several species, including Perityle grandifolia, Perityle canescens, and Aloysia nahuire, some of which had not been documented for decades!

Posted by tiwane tiwane, April 08, 2021 18:15



A Spanish version is available at:

@pioleon appears briefly in the Mazatlan City Nature Challenge video from 0:50-0:53 and holding the Echometer at 3:22.

Posted by tiwane about 1 month ago (Flag)

What a great discovery! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by christmasleech123 about 1 month ago (Flag)

Super cool that it's been such a good tool for botanists! The flower itself is cool too, and even green with a white eye like the iNatbird.

Posted by sea-kangaroo about 1 month ago (Flag)

Very cool!

Posted by cthawley about 1 month ago (Flag)

Very good, congratulations, but as for the term "naturalistae", does it sound right for inaturlist or ? Why not inaturalistorum or mexicanaturalistorum (-orum for genitive plural neutral) ?

Posted by odole about 1 month ago (Flag)

Too cool!!! Thanks to everyone involved!

Posted by susanhewitt about 1 month ago (Flag)

I also totally want to credit some of the amazing Wikipedians who wrote up the G. naturalistae article a few months ago during a video call. It was amazing to watch them work! I know @siobhanleachman, @andrawaag and @radrat were there, but please let me know if I'm missing anyone.

Posted by tiwane about 1 month ago (Flag)

Awesome story, plant and especially people!

Posted by dylapodiformes about 1 month ago (Flag)

Felicidades a todos. Fantástico.

Posted by agroservicios about 1 month ago (Flag)

How exciting!

Posted by wingedchimera about 1 month ago (Flag)

So rad. Felicidades a tod@s las Naturalistas!

Posted by leptonia about 1 month ago (Flag)

Wow, what a great story! Beautiful flower, beautiful people and connected by a beautiful tool. Inspiring and hopeful 🙏.

Posted by jeanpaulboerekamps about 1 month ago (Flag)

Very cool

Posted by fuerchtegott about 1 month ago (Flag)

That is so so so cool! Who named it?

Posted by rangermyles about 1 month ago (Flag)


Posted by karimhaddad about 1 month ago (Flag)


Posted by hmheinz about 1 month ago (Flag)

Very Cool.. Congratulations.. It is so cool that people can leverage the inaturalist findings of all for improving knowledge of species and many other things.

Posted by butterflies4fun about 1 month ago (Flag)

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