This species is often recognized by its characteristic densely pilose to hirsute pubescence, but as in many other Rubiaceae species occasional plants are glabrous (e.g., McPherson & van der Werff 16360). This species was circumscribed rather broadly by Malcomber & Taylor (2009), and its circumscription was narrowed by Taylor et al. (2014) who transferred some of the plants previously included here to Gaertnera hirsuta and presented a revised description of Gaertnera phaneophlebia. Gaertnera phanerophlebia is similar to Gaertnera hispida, and commonly confused with Bertiera crinita. Gaertnera phanerophlebia may hybridize with other species of Gaertnera; in particular one specimen, P.J. Rakotomalaza et al. 2068, appears to represent a hybrid with either G. humblotii or G. raphaelii.