The first specimens of this remarkable Composite genus belonging to the tribe Mutisieae were collected by Robert Schomburgk on the savannas of the high plateau of the Gran Sabana near the headwaters of the Mazaruni River, some "35" miles from Mount Roraima. Schomburgk set up the new genus Gongylolepis to accommodate this tree composite under the specific name benthamiana. Bentham and Hooker thirty-five years later associated the Guianan species with the Brazilian Stifftia parviflora. That disposition was adhered to in the Naturlichen Pflanzenfamilien by Hoffman. Blake, however, rejected the alignment, reinstated Gongylolepis, and proposed two additional species from Cerro Duida in Terr. Amazonas, Venezuela. Finally Cuatrecasas" recently transferred his Neocaldasia colombiana of the eastern Andes to Gongylolepis, where it properly belongs, raising the number of species then known to four.
Now as a result of the New York Botanical Garden's program of exploration in the Guayana Highland of Venezuela, six additional species have been collected and studied in the field,, Interesting patterns of distribution and relationship are beginning to emerge as a result of the additional material.
With one exception, G. colombiana, all of the ten species of Gongylolepis occur on the sandstone areas of the Guayana Highland. So far as presently known, of the remaining nine species, eight are confined, and mostly with very limited distribution, to the sandstone plateau mountains of Terr. Amazonas. One species, the first discovered in the genus, G. benthamiana, has a rather wide distribution in the eastern portion of the Gran Sabana at least from Auyan-tepuf to Mt. Roraima and the eastern terminus of the sandstone plateau region.