Subtribe Espeletiinae (Asteraceae) represents the best example of morphological and ecological diversification in the Northern Andes high-elevation ecosystem known as páramo. These plants, formerly considered as belonging to a single genus, Espeletia, were later referred to eight genera defined mainly according to their habit, branching pattern, and inflorescence position and structure. However, several molecular phylogenetic analyses have shown that this classification system is artificial since the larger genera, regrouping ca. 85% of the species, are polyphyletic. Here, a return to the previous classification system of the subtribe at the generic level is proposed, adopting the view that only Espeletia should be recognized, with the other seven genera considered as (heterotypic) synonyms. At the species level, a taxonomic revision is made of the nomenclature, morphology, and distribution of the taxa in the Venezuelan clade of Espeletia, one of the two major clades that compose the genus. Fifty-four species are accepted, 48 entirely endemic to the Venezuelan Cordillera de Mérida, 2 broadly distributed in this range and nearby areas in Colombia and Venezuela, and 4 endemic to the northern section of the Colombian Cordillera Oriental and Sierra de Perijá. Distribution maps for all species are proposed, along with brief morphological descriptions and lists of diagnostic features that facilitate their identification against similar species. Thirteen hybrid taxa and their putative parental species are also given, eight of them proposed here for the first time.
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Vol. 24 • No. 2