An identification problem with Phleum pratense (timothy)

What do these things have in common?

Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis)
Creeping Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus arundinaceus)
Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Candle Anemone (Anemone cylindrica)
Harding Grass (Phalaris aquatica)
immature Velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus)
immature wild indigo (Baptisia sp.)
a blond middle school boy with freckles

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All of these, and more, have been posted on iNaturalist as Phleum pratense (Timothy). In fact, in spring, nearly all the Phleum pratense records are incorrect. (Timothy blooms in summer.)

I think with some taxa, we just have to be aware that the error rate will be high.

I’m slowly working through the Phleum records awaiting “research grade” but it’s clear that then I’ll have to start on the ones that have achieved it.


Thank you for your service?

Its good to identify these common mistakes and make periodic scans for it. The more people who know what to look out for, the better the chance of getting it corrected before it sits in the database too long. Similarly I skim through wild strawberry IDs looking for missidentified indian strawberries, as well as some common name similarities (mile a minuite vine vs weed).

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Yes, strawberries are a problem!

I’m not sure (really, I’m not sure—maybe it is!) if forum topics are really the right place to address specific misidentification issues like this. I think these discussions might be better held on iNaturalist itself. Though, there is a somewhat similar idea in this topic:

For folks who want to help identify species where at least one of the IDs is Phleum pratense:

Or, to crawl through existing research grade obs to check for misidentifications:

Perhaps not the ideal place to address specific misidentifications per se, but @sedgequeen and @erininmd are doing what I suspect a number of iNaturalists are probably out there quietly doing: working through and watching over a favored set of plants or a familiar species. Think of this as a quiet sort of informal “adopt a species” or, for some, a favored location. Wonderful to hear of such efforts!


thank you for fixing those of mine that were wrong. I now know to look closer and now that i have a marco lens on my phone i’ll et closeup photos of the seed head when i have the macro on just to be sure.

As for where to discuss these, i agree it’s kind of edge case for the forum but there isn’t really a better place to do it and won’t be until/unless we can get this sort of thing built into main iNat, maybe genus taxa pages and such


Right, if we can use this topic as a general place of encouragement for such efforts, hear hear!

(I really appreciate the people who help with fungi/slime mold issues- I’m learning a lot… through my own mistakes heh).


@bouteloua – Thanks for this! This gives me access to different records, and I’ve just worked through a bunch of them.

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There are quite a few taxa - in plants particularly - that have so many wrong IDs it’s completely thrown off the auto-ID predictions (which immediately reinforces the problem as everyone starts choosing the first suggestion!)

I have several species where I regularly go through every observation, research grade or not, just to correct the errors. On the bright side, the longer I do it the less often wrong IDs seem to pop up, so I think it actually had improved the auto-ID a lot.

I know Harding Grass is very often ID’d as Timothy, but I’m not confident enough on those species to do any large scale corrections. @sedgequeen thank you for your efforts!

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