Add captions to default taxon photos

Others (including me) have also wished for a way to annotate on photos, for that matter on any observation it could be useful for the user or others to do so. INat is open source so if you’re a programmer you could take a stab at it maybe (not sure exactly how that works)


Many smartphone photo apps now will allow “markup” including text (and of course cropping too). So there’s a lot that can be done with a photo before submitting it to iNat. I think if people do this others will see it and follow suit. That’s not the same as a long caption, but it can be a big help.

One issue with this is that those marks are permanent parts of the image, and the image will be used to train our computer vision ID model.


Also I find it annoying and difficult to edit photos in the field and would like to on the website later.

Didn’t realize that, @tiwane, thanks

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Your title is great - thanks!

Thanks for this idea, bouteloua. I’m not sure the following belongs in this forum, but I’m hoping to learn how to pursue your idea of “add captions [in WIkipedia] with ID tips from a published field guide…”. Can you give me advice on the following sorts of beginner Wikipedia questions?

Do you think it would work to add photos illustrating field characteristics that Wikipedia has already accepted in its article? Is there a way for me to suggest new ID tips for someone else in the Wikipedia community to adopt? Are there mentors for helping get people plugged into the adding content to Wikipedia?

If this discussion belongs off the forum, please feel welcome to contact me at or 650 759 2996.

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Hi @brucehs, I started a new topic about Wikipedia & iNaturalist here:

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One of our ideas was to create Wikipedia articles that include illustrated ID tips, potentially useful to iNaturalist users. This has the advantage that the Wikipedia community will review, correct, and improve these illustrated descriptions without requiring iNaturalist programming or iNaturalist user effort.

I’ve created an example of this kind of Wikipedia article at that includes illustrated ID tips that I think would be useful to iNaturalist users.

It is photo-oriented, with plenty of useful ID tips in the captions and descriptions. I put in a subtitle of “Illustrated ID Tips” right above the good stuff, which we might want to use as a convention to point iNaturalist at the most useful part of the content.

Does this approach look appealing to you?


That’s good content, of a kind I really want to be able to add to iNaturalist taxon pages. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have been automatically included on the iNat taxon page for Crepis vesicaria taraxacifolia. Maybe that’s something a curator can do? Edit: someone did it. Thanks, whoever you are!

I’m uncertain whether or not Wikipedia editors will permit this kind of content ( Just to be clear, I think they should permit this kind of content, and I’m certainly not going to draw the attention of any editors to this article, but I suspect some will argue your content should be deleted because it “isn’t verifiable” or is a synthesis of existing material and is therefore original research. This is one reason why I’ve been pushing for an iNaturalist-controlled wiki, where we could add unpublished ID tips without having to worry about deletion backed up by a site-wide policy.


Personally I don’t think we should use Wikipedia for this as part of an iNat community project. Of course I am not telling people not to add things to Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is a great thing I use often, but I think it’s better to either keep any ID tips within iNat so it is part of our community and not some bigger or different one… or else create some kind of parallel species ID wiki which sounds like a neat project but probably something none of us have time for. So yeah, i agree with @Jeremyhussell that an inat controlled Wiki is best. But maybe out of scope for the devs.


Wikipedia policies specifically state it is not a guide.,_guidebook,_textbook,_or_scientific_journal

So I suspect if found, content of this nature would be removed.


Detailed description of morphology is a key part of taxon pages on Wikipedia. The main related points are to a) ensure the information you are adding is referenced from a reliable source and b) phrase the content in such a way that is not

If you want to identify suchnsuch, measure the leaf and look at the edges. If the leaf is over 9 cm and the edges are wavy, it’s a suchnsuch.[some person told me on iNaturalist]

but rather

Suchnsuch has broad leaves 9–15 cm in width with wavy edges.[reliable reference]

@brucehs I made a few edits to your example taxon page and photo captions in Wikipedia if you want to take a look. Oh, and please feel free to shoot me a message here or via email ( if you have other questions about Wikipedia. Happy to help.


I just read the section you suggested, and I think we may be able to add illustrations and captions to articles on plants without being accused of making a guide book. We’re adding useful content to types of pages that are already encouraged.

I’ve had lots of useful edits on the Wikipedia page referred to above, including some that affect the size of photos, but nobody is saying my content doesn’t belong.

Thanks for including the link to my Wikipedia article from your taxon page. I note that it is out of date (I’ve added more illustrated tips). Do your links automatically update from time to time?

Verification is a big deal at Wikipedia. Luckily there are a lot of good citable sources for ID tips like the Jepson EFlora. We just need to do a good job of translating from precise botanical terms to accurate everyday English.

Validating photos is harder, but not impossible. At, we use photographers and illustrators with a strong reputation, such as Neil Kramer, John Muir Laws, Keir Morse, etc. Another approach is to use evidence from local keys and have a local expert confirm the ID. If we’re careful to introduce well-documented ID photos, I’m hoping nobody will be called on to slap us on the wrist. Another way to get approved photos into our Wikipedia descriptions is to choose photos already posted to Wikimedia. For my phyllary article (still in draft form) I was able to use all pre-existing Wikimedia images.


Thank you! I’ve gotten lots of edits to this article, and I’m pleased how it’s turning out.

Here are three specific ideas for adding captions to taxon photos. I’m not sure if these belong in 3 posts or one, but I’ll summarize them here.

  1. Allow any logged in user to add an ID tip (proposed caption) to any photo from the taxon page.

    a. I really like associating ID tips with photos. The combination of words and images is much more effective than either by itself. I think the natural way to allow people to enter ID tips for images is to allow them to add an ID tip to a photo on the taxon page.

    b. ID tips should be a separate type of entry, different from comments. ID tips will need special handling (see below), and only ID tips will be candidates to be included as captions below taxon photos presented in the mobile app.

  2. The UI for entering an ID tip should allow others to vote on it, make comments and corrections, and add additional tips. has a nice way of accomplishing this - instead of tracking answers, we would be tracking illustrated ID tips:

  1. I would like to see ID tips have titles. This would give users a quick idea of what the ID tip is about. Titles might be “Leaf Arrangement”, “Flower Color”, or “Phyllary Arrangement”.

    In addition to organizing ID tips, ID Tip Titles could eventually be used to organize standard character heirarchies for certain taxon groups, which could become transcendently powerful. If programmers allow for this possibility, future user groups could develop standard ID Tip Titles, each with a fixed list of possibilities (e.g. Leaf Arrangement). If filled in by an active user community, these could be the basis of powerful standard character searches.


It’s too bad we don’t have a way to annotate on a separate layer without that layer being flattened & becoming part of the image itself. Not just in iNat; in image editors too.

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this is a big one. if people have to search around for id info and then it’s written using terms they don’t understand, most of them will probably be frustrated and move on. highly technical information is certainly very useful for scientific reasons but the average person needs an approachable way to enter the world of identifying nature. your site is very cool by the way!

one way it could perhaps be presented on inat is next to the taxon photo when you look at suggestions. at least on the computer site you’ll see the species name, two photos (which you can click to see more), and a map of occurrences. maybe it could be the taxon photo (still clickable to see more photos), a summary of distinguishing traits, and then the map. i’m terrible at explaining things so maybe a picture would help?

(pretend that’s a well rendered example + it’s the usual inat colors because i forgot i have an extension turned on + it’s an observation where the written information would actually be helpful lol. i’m tired and spent about two minutes on it, cut me a little slack)

i do wonder, though, how inat would set up the section where people can enter the distinguishing traits. i guess on the species page. you could make it so only curators could add the information to prevent potential spam or something but i reckon that’d just add unnecessary work for the curators and that’d neglect species that the curators don’t know much about themselves. i’m also not sure how it would work for mobile because i don’t do much on mobile.

overall it’d be quite the undertaking to plan and set up but it would be a helpful addition to inaturalist, especially when it comes to encouraging newcomers to get out there and practice their identification skills!

edit: not relevant to the creation of the feature, rather the application of it, but it’s maybe worth noting that if those were the real notes for turkey and black vultures they’d be both better written and include more details to distinguish the species from other new world vultures down south, corvids, birds of prey in flight, etc. just wanted to make it obvious that i wouldn’t actually suggest those as the taxon notes lol

That is open to anyone. When I come across a comment that explains why … I go back to the taxon pictures and make sure that distinguishing feature is illustrated, and is among the first few photos.
Searsia crenata - crenata is that scalloped edge on the leaves

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