Absolutely tired of plants not marked as cultivated - Solutions welcome

I know it’s been a topic that’s been brought up time and again on the forums, but the issue of users not marking observations of cultivated plants is really, really starting to get on my nerves. I go through hundreds of them each week, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Not to mention the (possibly also hundreds of) observations of cultivated plants that have slipped through and become research-grade.

Feel free to share/compile any ideas on potential solutions to this issue in this thread because it really is becoming worse and worse each passing day.

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set your identify filter to reverse sort order and save it as a bookmark… then you will be identifying from the oldest to the latest, and hopefully for most of them the cultivated flag will have been set by the time you get to them.

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It is definitely annoying. I find that filtering observations to avoid certain more urban areas areas cuts down on it a lot.

Lately I’ve been having an opposite but equally infuriating problem where people keep marking my clearly NOT cultivated feral/invasive plants as being cultivated… sigh…

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A tricky situation for sure.

Some things an identifier can do now
–dog through and mark all the ones you see as cultivated, to help make the algorithm which automatically marks cultivated plants more accurate
–leave a comment on ones that you see unmarked–I know this is is a total pain, and can seem kind of mean if you’re reminding the same user multiple times, but I swear it does help people learn to mark them. I watch all the plant observations in my county, and so if I see five unmarked observations in a row by the same user, I try to leave the comment on only one of the five, but if the same person does it again later, I will repeat the comment. Sometimes someone will get mad at me for leaving the same comment multiple times, but at least in my opinion repeated failure to mark the plants justifies repeated (polite) reminders to do so. I use this as my copy/paste; I took pains to make the wording as friendly and welcoming as possible: If you photograph garden plants, potted plants or cut flowers, do not forget to check the box “It is captive or cultivated.” This database is primarily interested in wild plants, including weeds. You may still upload garden plants for your personal enjoyment and education, but remember, if a person planted it, check the box! Here’s a short video showing how to do it in the mobile app: https://vimeo.com/331151155 Thank you and have fun.
–attempt to be less annoyed by finding some appreciation for cultivated plants (a tall order, I know!)

Some solutions iNaturalist the organization might consider going forward:
–be less vague in the wording on the home page and app description; explicitly state that the database seeks to capture wild organisms
–make new users complete a mandatory tutorial on how to create an observation and make sure it is very clear about what captive/cultivated means
–for the first 10 or so observations that a user makes, throw up a popup saying “Are you sure this is wild?” when the person goes to submit (I’d also like it to force them to choose an iconic taxon, to train them not to post unknowns, but that’s an argument for another thread)

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It’s completely overwhelming, and it makes our data look clownish. I offered a feature request a while back that would reduce the problem significantly, but after some consideration it was rejected:
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/provide-separate-buttons-to-start-new-wild-or-non-wild-observations/9262

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In my experience most of the repeat offenders are school children. Sometimes their teacher wasn’t clear. Sometimes the kids just don’t understand. In the US at least I think it’s a cultural problem… “nature” is anything outside and urbanites honestly never considered where the plants around them came from and/or what artificial measures are keeping them where they are. Last summer I reached out to the high school teacher whose students were driving me bonkers, and he ended up asking me to record a virtual lesson for his students on what makes a plant cultivated and why it matters to those of us using iNaturalist data to update our county plant checklist.

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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, we’re working on much better onboarding for new users, which should hopefully cut down on this. But unfortunately that takes time to design and implement.


When using Identify, you can choose to only see observations made by accounts that are more than a week old, reducing the likelihood you’ll run across a glut of new garden plant observations made by students. That won’t assuage the problem of those observations not correctly marked, of course, but if you’re not in the mood to do wade through them it can help.

I actually sometimes like to do the opposite and help to correct observations made by new users and tell them how to mark observations properly. I use TextExpander in my browser so I can quickly enter boilerplate comments I’ve saved.


If you notice a pattern, such as a project badge on all the observations, you can look for projects that students are in the message the instructor who created the project and politely ask them to have their students focus on wild organisms (and correctly mark the non-wild ones).

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I do have plenty of appreciation for cultivated plants (I ID mostly cultivated plants, and upload many as well), hence my additional frustration with people who don’t mark them as such

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While reading this thread, I realized the problem highlights a bigger one…(touched on in one comment)…most people are unaware of the difference in cultivated and wild because they are unaware of or unfamiliar with native plant communities…and that is the same reason they blissfully wander, jog, hike or cycle around without seeing the degradation! This may be more true where I live, beside the largest area of wild remnant and regen forest and wetlands in Auckland, the so-called Weed Capital of the World…temperate, geograhically isolated so lacking the natural herbivores of most exotic plants, and naive evolution-wise, ie many flightless, trusting bird species, and many slow-growing plant species.

So this is the edge of a bigger question than the annoyance of identifiers!

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Maybe have a copypasta note up top on each obs - monitoring invasives, or whatever.

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The elephant in the room is that many people upload an obs to iNat, hoping for an ID.
Because of the current system, if they are deliberately honest and say not wild then iNat stomps CASUAL on the obs … and it slides out of the ID queue.

Some observers leave it at wild, until the ID comes thru, then go back and tip it into casual

This whole issue blurs the distribution maps. If the obs doesn’t say ‘not wild’ iNat offers Seen Nearby choices, which can be confusing.

As the weird outliers come up for me on distribution maps for Cape Flora, I try to follow them up. If only to shift the ID up or over so it no longer shows as this Cape flora grows wild on the mountains of Peru, for example.

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One thing I’ve been tempted to do, but haven’t gotten around to, is filtering for commonly cultivated species that definitely do not escape to the wild (say, marigolds here in New England) and marking every one of them as cultivated. The issue with this is that so many cultivated plants do escape to the wild at least occasionally, and some commonly planted species (like Northern Whitecedar, aka Arborvitae) do grow wild in the region.

That doesn’t get to the issue of educating the observers, but it does clean up the Research Grade observations and help to educate the AI.

The larger question for me is how to educate new observers, not only as to the difference between wild and cultivated, but also about how to go about learning to ID an organism themselves. iNaturalist, for all its many, many virtues, can’t substitute for good, old-fashioned wandering around with a field guide or 12 in hand, figuring out what characters you need to look at to ID spruces or warblers or red-fruited pixie cup lichens. (Yes, I’m showing my age here! Paper field guides?!) Those of us who make IDs could do a lot of that kind of education, at least pointing people to the right resources off-iNat - I’ve certainly had the benefit of that myself - but it takes time and energy, and I, for one, don’t always have either of those.

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I’m not a plant person, but I’m going to guess that anything not ‘mandatory’ will get overlooked. I’m thinking about annotations, which are usually missing. I’m guilty of this myself - I’ll post an observation, fill in the relevant data (and projects) and forget to do other ‘optional’ things. When I review moths I usually need to add the annotations, which slows down the process. To make matters worse, I believe ‘cultivated’ is lower down on the page, which for many is terra incognito.

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I think this post should be merged with one of previous ones, there’re like 10 posts about why people don’t mark cultivated plants and what to do about it, I think it’s a waste of energy to repeat same things and probably it prevents from discovering new solutions, as I see same ideas over and over.

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This is one of the reasons I don´t log plants as cultivated.
e.g. Sometimes I see flowers in parks and I need to know what the hoverflies are pollinating, so I have consciously not ticked the box. Its limiting my ability to find detail to add to the observation if I push it into casual. There is nothing particularly “casual” about me wanting the ID of a flower a hoverfly is on - the importance of capturing this detail is repeatedly noted and requested by the UK recording scheme.

There just needs to be an expansion of the terms surrounding this really…
Needs ID, RG and casual simply don´t cover all the use cases.

The other reason is that as someone with zero knowledge of botany, I have little or no idea what constitutes “cultivated” anyway to be honest…not with any certainty.
How is this even defined?
E.g. with something like this - a fern in park woodland which I later found out to be partially designed and planted in the 1800s, how would one decide whether the fern was once cultivated but is now “wild” or not? ( any more than a species for example which was introduced in the 1800s and has since become more abundantly visible in UK countryside). The tree next to the fern was likely planted in the 1800s and is now considered an ancient tree - should that be marked cultivated too?

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That’s true; some people don’t realize the Captured/Cultivated intent; but others really want to know what the plant in a pot or garden bed may be. I have a “copy/pasta” (love that idiom) for cultivated plants that suggests they may like the PictureThis app better, as it is specifically developed for houseplants and garden plants.

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https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/wild-or-cultivated-how-to-tell/19627

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At the risk of pouring cold water on the thread, I don’t think there are any ‘solutions’, at this point along with several other things (duck-faced selfies, pictures of living rooms etc), I’ve basically decided that seeing them and them being in the database is effectively part of the price of using the site.

You can add all the onboarding and instructions/guidelines you want, and it will not stop them being entered. You can’t outright ban and delete them, the site dont have capacity to review all the requests, and there is no way some kind of auto deletion will ever be implemented (see notes about people marking stuff that is actually wild etc).

Think it is bad now ? Wait a month for the CNC to kick off…

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This is one place where Add Projects to Annotations tab of Identify modal feature request would come in handy.

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Yes, same for me actually!

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