A good example of the usefulness of IDing popularly cultivated taxa

One of my new favorite garden flowers is the Brazilian Jasmine, Mandevilla sanderi. Besides its bold, red color, I was attracted to the word association of its name – Mandeville reminds me of Brazzaville (an exotic place) and Mandrill (an exotic animal). It is the only species of Mandevilla that I can confidently identify. It is also observed almost exclusively in cultivation – I know this because I have been on an identification streak, looking at all Mandevilla observations, both “Needs ID” and “Casual.” My goal is that every observation currently at genus, that I can confidently ID as this species, add my “Leading” ID.

I have yet to find even one observation of this species in its native range (endemic to the State of Rio de Janeiro), unlike other Mandevilla species, which are observed mostly in their native habitats. By far the majority of Mandevilla observations on iNaturalist are this species, in cultivation. But then there is this one.

Australia is nowhere near the species’ native range; but this plant is clearly wild – as the original observer noted, “Escaped nearby cultivation.”

Since I don’t know much about Australian flora, I would never have found this exploring by locality. I only found it because I decided to look at a species that I knew was popularly cultivated and would have a lot of “Casual” observations. As has been noted in other threads, it is important to track garden escapees, because that can help with early detection of potential new invasives. But in order to track garden escapees, we must be willing to look at taxa that we know only as garden plants.


Reminds me of my observation of a garden geranium (Pelargonium × hybridum) growing out of a roof in the same city:


This is an excellent point! And…the only way to find the wild ones is to make sure that all the intentionally planted ones are marked as such. Great spotting!


I think one of the unsung merits of iNat data is that it may allow scientists to track the spread of invasive species, including commonly cultivated plants. And thank you for IDing Mandevilla; it’s one of the plants I often confuse with another species (the name of which escapes me right now), even though I’ve grown Mandevilla myself.


This is an important point. There are several examples of newly invasive plants found in New York state (U.S.) documented in the scientific literature based at least in part on iNaturalist Observations, e.g.:


It would be great to have all the wild and cultivated plants properly tagged. If there is a list of tasks newbies could do to learn the ropes of iNaturalist, that’s one.

Imagine what it would be like to know that for every 100,000 of species A that are cultivated in an area there is 1 in the wild, but that for every 100,000 of species B cultivated there are 10,000 in the wild.

Now imagine that there are 40 million of species A cultivated in that area but only 4,000 of species B, and most people can’t tell which one they have in their landscape. (Just to save you the math, those ratios mean 400 of each plant in the wild. Doesn’t it matter how they got there?)

With that kind of information, we could recognize that a new species is highly invasive while its wild offspring are still saplings and respond accordingly. We could also tell the difference between it and a cousin that is merely an overused nuisance. We could avoid riling up the millions who had planted species A and focus on the hundreds who had introduced species B.

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Great post. Does anybody else find that some identifiers are too overzealous at tagging popularly cultivated plants as cultivated even when they’re garden escapees and wild by iNaturalist’s definition? It’s important to flag things correctly, but sometimes I make a note about how the plant is outside a garden and wasn’t planted there…and people still come along and mark it as “cultivated” because the plant isn’t native to Australia.

Here’s one of my favourite garden escapee observations, also from Melbourne - a garden pansy growing out of the sidewalk! https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/66590754


Marking an “ambiguous setting” plant as captive happens all the time- I just encourage people to countervote as necessary on ones I have marked that way.


Not so woth plants, but cats and dogs get up to 5 votes down because user don’t understand iNat system (and it has imperfect wording), our botanists know the rules and don’t do that.

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