Identifying Amazonian ferns using a new online key

A new online tool enables easy and free identification of important Amazonian indicator species

Adiantum cajennense
Adiantum cajennense specimen from The New York Botanical Garden Herbarium (NY) dataset. Photo licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Being able to easily and accurately identify species is crucial to producing quality data on species distributions needed for improving conservation planning. Taxonomic identification based on printed floras may be difficult for the untrained eye, and with new species being described continuously, printed keys may become outdated quickly.

In this paper, researchers from Brazil and Finland present a new, free to use, online identification tool aimed at describing Amazonian fern species. Including data on more than 250 species, the Lucid-based tool offers the user the ability to differentiate species based on 54 morphological features, each described avoiding botanical jargon and accompanied by exemplary illustrations and photos. While the user can select features in any order desired, they are ordered by the easiest to identify and most informative traits.

For possible species matches, the tool also provides direct links to maps of distributions based on GBIF-mediated occurrences that may help user confirm their identification.

The authors aim to continue developing the online key and invite colleagues to contribute to aid identification of these important indicators of enviromental conditions in Amazonia.

Zuquim G, Tuomisto H and Prado J (2017) A free-access online key to identify Amazonian ferns. PhytoKeys. Pensoft Publishers 78: 1–15. Available at: