In conservation studies, solely widespread species are often used as indicators of diversity patterns, but narrow-ranged species can show different patterns. Here, we assess how well subsets of narrow-ranged, widespread or randomly selected plant species represent patterns of species richness and weighted endemism in Gabon, tropical Africa. Specifically, we assess the effect of using different definitions of widespread and narrow-ranged and of the information content of the subsets. Finally, we test if narrow-ranged species are overrepresented in species-rich areas. Based on distribution models of Gabonese plant species, we defined sequential subsets from narrow-ranged-to-widespread, widespread-to-narrow-ranged, and 100 randomly arranged species sequences using the range sizes of species in tropical Africa and within Gabon. Along these sequences, correlations between subsets and the total species richness and total weighted endemism patterns were computed. Random species subsets best represent the total species richness pattern, whereas subsets of narrow-ranged species best represent the total weighted endemism pattern. For species ordered according to their range sizes in tropical Africa, subsets of narrow-ranged species represented the total species richness pattern better than widespread species subsets did. However, the opposite was true when range sizes were truncated by the Gabonese national country borders. Correcting for the information content of the subset results in a skew of the sequential correlations, its direction depending on the range-size frequency distribution. Finally, we find a strong, positive, non-linear relation between weighted endemism and total species richness. Observed differences in the contribution of narrow-ranged, widespread and randomly selected species to species richness and weighted endemism patterns can be explained by the range-size frequency distribution and the use of different definitions of widespread or narrow-ranged. We call for a reconsideration of the use of widespread species as an indicator of diversity patterns, and advocate using the full ranges of species when assessing diversity patterns.