• angiosperms;
  • barcoding gap;
  • Canarian endemics;
  • diagnostic characters;
  • DNA barcoding;
  • hotspot;
  • oceanic islands


We use a comprehensive subset of Canarian angiosperms corresponding to 23 families, 35 genera and 60 Canarian endemic taxa to test whether this flora is suitable to taxonomic identification with the two proposed plant DNA barcode sequences and whether these sequences may reveal the existence of cryptic species overlooked by morphology. The rate of discrimination success between the insular congeneric samples using the rbcL+matK combination and a ‘character-based’ approach (where we use only the combination of nucleotide positions in an alignment that allows unambiguous species identification) is higher (82.29%) than that obtained with the ‘distance-based’ approach (80.20%) used by the CBOL Plant Working Group in 2009 and also when compared with tests conducted in other floras. This suggests that the molecular identification of the Canarian endemic flora can be achieved as successfully as in other floras where the incidence of radiation is not as relevant. The facts that (i) a distance-based criterion was unable to discriminate between congeneric and conspecific comparisons and (ii) only the character-based discrimination criterion resolved cases that the distance-based criterion did not, further support the use of a character discrimination approach for a more efficient DNA barcoding of floras from oceanic islands like the Canaries. Thus, a barcoding gap seems not to be necessary for the correct molecular characterization of the Canarian flora. DNA barcodes also suggest the possible existence of cryptic taxa to be further investigated by morphology and that the current taxonomic status of some of the taxa analysed may need revision.