Plant species articles ripe for student contributions

For some classes, selecting the right article to work on can be a challenging task. For a plant taxonomy class interested in creating species articles, you’re more likely to be faced by an embarrassment of riches.

Verbesina is a genus of plants in the aster family. Of the 300 species in the genus, only 19 have Wikipedia articles, and 18 of them are very short “stubs.” The only species article that’s more than a stub is Verbesina occidentalis. That article was created by a student in Jay Bolin’s Plant Taxonomy course at Catawba College.

Juncus is another large genus of plants commonly known as rushes. Before a student created an article for Juncus dichotomus, almost all of the 66 species with articles were stubs. Rushes are one of three groups of grass-like plants commonly found in wetlands. There’s even a rhyme to tell the three apart: “Sedges have edges, rushes are round. Grasses are hollow right up from the ground.” Carex is a genus of sedge with over 2,000 species, of which 198 have articles but 147 are stubs. A student in the class helped to fill this gap as well with the creation of an article on the species Carex rosea.

Cuscuta compacta is a parasitic plant found in the eastern and southern United States and southern Canada. It has a pale yellow stem and no roots — as a parasite, instead of photosynthesizing, it draws food, water, and mineral nutrients from its host plant. Aureolaria pedicularia is a partial or hemiparasitic plant found in eastern North America. Although capable of photosynthesis, it draws water and mineral nutrients from its host. Viburnum dilatatum is a shrub native to East Asia which has been introduced to the United States as an ornamental. It is considered to be a potential invasive species in the mid-Atlantic region of the country. All of these articles, together with the article on Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides, were created by students in this class.

While students can fill gaps by creating articles where none exist, they can also fill gaps by expanding short articles that already exist. Selaginella apoda is a vascular plant that produces spores instead of seeds. Sium suave is a wetland plant in the carrot family. Mollugo verticillata is native to tropical parts of the Americas and is a common weed in eastern North America. Lactuca canadensis is a wild relative of lettuce native to North America. Pinus virginiana is a species of pine tree that ranges from southern New York through Appalachia. Boehmeria cylindrica is a common plant found in wet-to-moist habitats throughout much of the Americas. Galium obtusum is a small wildflower. Quercus stellata, commonly known as the post oak, is a widespread species of oak. These were all short articles that students in the class expanded substantially.

Species articles are fun to work on because they follow a fairly constant format; this allows you to focus more on what to say, and less on how to say it. Wiki Education has created a handout for writing species articles that outlines the process for writing species articles.

If you need help finding articles for your students to edit on Wikipedia, read more about our article finder training module. To learn more about how to get involved, send us an email at or visit

Image: Sibthorpioides 03457.jpg, by Vengolis, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


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