Annoying identifying tactic

Hello everyone,
I have recently picked up my identifying and observing and one thing I tend to notice is many cultivated plants. My rule of thumb is: a. confirm that the plant is planted, no guessing(need to see direct evidence of a garden, sidewalk strip, or flowerpot), and b. identify the plant. I have had over 200! observations of escaped and even wild/invasive plants marked as captive WITHOUT being identified. For me, that is frustrating as I love observing new plants and seeing an escaped garden plant is a great way for me to see a potential new invasive species and get the lifer. I always specify if the plant is a “waif” or escaped if the plant is commonly cultivated. However, these 200+ observations have hurt my species count significantly.
I would hope that identifiers would at least confirm the identification before marking as captive, and hopefully explain why it is captive.
I wrote a lot, and I hope I can get some help and help others as well


Yes, the misclassification of escaped plants as cultivated is frustrating! I try to prevent it by commenting, explaining that the plant is wild, in cases where people are likely to misclassify it. Also, though I usually don’t remember to do it, I can click on the “thumbs up” for wild, to preemptively downvote one vote for captive, anyway. Occasionally I have to message one of the people who misclassifiedthe observation, though I hate to do that.


I’m sorry you’re having this issue, it certainly sounds frustrating. One thing to be aware of (and maybe you already are) is that some of the captive votes might be automatic, and not careless identifiers. The iNat system itself will automatically vote that an observation is not-wild if a certain percentage of observations of that taxon are captive within the general area (i.e., if it’s usually captive in the region). This will likely happen a lot if you’re observing garden plants that have escaped their gardens-- for those taxa, waifs are likely minorities compared to genuinely captive observations in the system. So if you disagree with the robot’s judgement, you need to vote against it in the DQA area. There’s more info on this process here:


That is helpfule to know. Would this also happen with revegetation sites? When I see recruitment, then I tend to put them up as a wild observation.


yes that’s fine, the original revegetated/planted stuff will be captive/cultivated, but self-seeding/recruitment of their own volition is wild


Not in the case of unknowns. The automated script operates off of the plant’s ID. Unknowns have no ID, so captive unknowns have to be marked by a real person. Keep in mind sometimes the person is the observer though.


In my opinion that’s observer role to add a note to explain that plant is escaped/naturalized. And/Or add a photo that make understand it is naturalized.
That’s observers job to make their observations understandable for community (and identifiers).


I agree 100%, I guess the question is just how it is done best - yayemaster already mentioning specifying “if the plant is a “waif” or escaped if the plant is commonly cultivated” but you can do it several ways, e.g. in the observation fields, in a comment, in the description… Often one of them can be missed easily by identifiers, when they go through observations quickly and are a bit annoyed by many garden observations that are not marked as cultivated - so it might be better to provide this information on two places.

What works best for me (but I do not always do that)

  • Be more than clear: Often one of them can be missed easily by identifiers, when they go through observations quickly and are a bit annoyed by many garden observations that are not marked as cultivated - so it might be better to provide this information on two places.

  • Become a “real” Citizen Scientist: :upside_down_face: Marking in a comment when something is not cultivated, that usually is mainly found in the region and look for additional data about introductions of the species in this or neighbouring regions, too see if there is already research on in - which I post in a comment below the identification - this way it is very clear what that my focus was: I looked for a species that in my opinion escaped cultivation - and the next identifier will recognize this right away (e.g. here: (I am writing “in my opinion”, since there are cases when it is not so clear, then -in my opinion- the best practice is to discuss it with others underneath the observations, arguments why you think it is wild- and do not forget to ask them why they think it is not- this way you can also learn a bit).

  • Be conservative and/or allow criticism (latter is general good practice :blush: ): While I really like to look for garden escapists, I became a bit more conservative (i.e. marking more things as cultivated from my own observations) - such as some flowers that I first thought were wild but then recognized that they were most likely relicts of a not very successful sown flower-strip from the same year: (Similar it would have looked if they were escapists from flower strips or gardens nearby, but then you could argue that they are wild). This is just shows that it is an example of plants that depending on your previous knowledge you would have interpreted those plants at the site differently, so it is good that identifiers scrutinize the observations a bit…

  • Give an overview: Generally, it helps if you have -besides your usual photos that allow a for a good identification- one photo of the plant in the “habitat” where you can see that it was not cultivated, such as here:

Do you have more advice?

Not everything is easy:
I brought some example that shows that sometimes it is really not clear - have a look if you want


to keep it a bit in order, they are all originally cultivated grasses, that might or might have escaped their cultivation:

  • Maybe some of you have an idea, what this on is – cultivated or wild (I marked it in a conservative manner as cultivated, but I think it leave a bit of room for discussion) - and Due to very wet weather conditions during harvesting season, the wheat started germinating on the field again last year in some regions – certainly not something that the farmer would want to, one could possibly say that these young plants do not grow in the “care” of someone - But the again would not last too long, if the field was not cultivated after (but that happens with all annual plants on a cultivated field, they disappear if there is no cultivation anymore).

  • But then, if the wheat from the year before cultivated or wild - it is also not there intentionally!

  • And what about the wheat in a grassland, maybe because the tractor that was used to cut the grass rolled through a field before?

  • Or the wheat on the side of the road, maybe it fell down after harvesting- (in my opinion this is a bit more clearly wild, although it will certainly disappear there soon, but I guess that is also the case with many garden escapists, some last outside of gardens very well some until the next drought or next much colder winter) -

What do you think?


Well, I not usually do either of this.
The observations of the city I am living in (Bogotá) are overflown by capitve plant observations - often very clear with plants in a pot, in an obviously cared for situation in a park or indoors or even from the botanical garden… I don’t see the need to explain why this is planted (you could have a look for plants in Bogotá city right now and I bet you find one obviously planted within the first page of needs ID :wink:). On the other hand I am not a plant person and am in most cases not able to confirm anything useful. I will anyway from time to time - when I don’t feel inspired to identify but want to contribute - go through these kinds of observations and mark them captive.

I agree with Kelian that in those obvious cases it should be the observer who needs to explain why he/she thinks it’s wild anyways


It can be easily understood what you wrote about frustation after seeing many observations of yours marked as captive/cultivated when it is not the case.
I can only say few things:

  1. In the case one of your OBs is wrongly marked, you have the right to ask those who marked it to revise their point of view or the reasons behind their choice. Moreover, you can ask other users to counterbalance the DQA.
  2. Anyway, I feel also the need to argue in favour of those who carry out the task of marking the observations of non-wild organisms. I think that, when it is made properly, it is helpful to make iNat better as a faithful depiction of what can be found in nature. Try to put in their shoes. Every day, (here especially during summer or in the season in which there are more tourists) from about ten to more than one hundred observations of non-wild organisms are uploaded. In many cases just one small particular is depicted without, for example, showing where a commonly cultivated tree is growing. Often a very imprecise position is provided with a radius, for example, of 2-3 km in an urban area. This not necessarily happens with new users. What I mean is that mistakes may happen and it is possible that many of such mistakes are made in good faith. In many cases these mistakes may be caused by the very imprecise data that can be obtained from an observation.

In the end, I think that if you will add a photo depicting a plant in the environment where it grows and providing a precise position, it will be easier for other users to correctly understand their wild or non-wild status.


I can understand this - and so many people post a cultivated plant to try out the app and then never return that some marking as “not wild” is necessary.
But please, please comment when you do so. We get alerts for comments, but we do not get an alert when someone marks something on the DQA. I bet I currently have some observations that someone has messed with on the DQA, and I don’t even know about it. They may be right or they may be wrong, but I deserve to know when someone decides my observation is casual.

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I can understand this can be very frustrating. However, building on what @Ajott said, you can’t really expect everyone who marks obs as not wild to be able to also provide a reliable ID.

Going through the list of plant obs stuck at high-level taxa in the Netherlands recently I also encountered many cultivated plants and marked them as such without being able to provide an improving ID, even if I am decent at ID’ing local plants in general. Keep into account that many identifyers are more familiar with native flora than with all cultivated species in the area, so escapees are more likely to not be able to be identified by local specialists. Of course, it would be ideal to leave a comment, but this is a lot to ask from power identifiers who run through hundreds of captive observations.

If your RG species count is important to you, you can always go through the observations in question and give the ‘Organism is wild’ a thumbs up, which will effectively undo one vote against it.


I’m conflicted on this. I don’t personally mark observations as captive without providing some kind of ID, but I definitely understand that some identifiers would be inclined to do so. I also see value in captive observations–they can provide some useful data. Every once in a while I will filter observations to “cultivated” and try to identify as many as I can within my State. I suspect that’s the solution for anyone concerned about over-zealous cultivated votes.


I have the same issue with non-invasive, yet exotic trees, that grow in the wild (like Prunus persica), my observations have personal value to me so I usually add ‘casual’ if I think it was cultivated (because if I don’t it will mess with my data I’m storing on iNat which does not concern any cultivated plants), it does, however, concern plants growing in the wild, be it exotic, invasive, out-of-range, etc. they all count so I am very strict on my labelling of casual or wild with my own observation, but many of the Peach trees I find in the wild are growing along paths, drainage canals, roadside and so on (places where it is highly unlikely that anyone would bother planting a tree/are not allowed to plant trees/places that are not often visited by anyone or are quite difficult to get close to - I agree that it is likely that the peach seeds got there while being discarded by humans but that is by no means grounds for ‘casual’ status since the seeds were discarded), I actually avoid observing trees around old farm houses and abandoned orchids etc. just so they don’t contaminate my ‘wild’ peach observations… but they keep landing up as ‘casual’, I have added pics of the plant in the wild setting, I have added notes and comments saying these trees aren’t cultivated and are growing in the wild/ I have pointed out that they are seedling plants growing close to farm yard that was abandoned over 50 years ago (before I stopped observing such plants), I have even asked the person who keeps marking them as casual as to why he insists on doing it, even when the plant in the observation is clearly not cultivated… never got feedback on this from him, and it never changed anything… I have had to accept this inconvenience and try work around it (it has already affected my observations because I tend to not bother observing these plants most of the time)… and it is not just one species either… it is all Prunus, Pyrus, Malus, Ulmus parvifolia, Tipuana tipu, Jacaranda, Quercus sp., I would say everything exotic, but apparently Melia azederach, Morus alba, Solanum maurituanum, Acacia mearnsii and melanoxylon, Salix babylonica, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Robinia pseudoacacia, Poplar sp., Opuntia and Cereus cacti don’t qualify for casual status (before you say those sp. that don’t qualify are naturalized plants, keep in mind that Jacaranda, Tipuana and Ulmus parvifolia are also naturalized and invasive - emphasis on Tipuana and Ulmus in this area, where they are more widespread than Melia azederach), my reponse to this was simple, just go and tick the ‘wild’ observation box near the bottom of the page, then your ‘wild’ cancels the other obsevers ‘casual’ out


Yes, I also find this really annoying as well, I had recently gotten some flowers in soil as a gift and had no idea what species it is. Even though I know its captive, I would really like it if people would identify plants to species level before marking it as captive.

In an ideal world, such (useful) “automatic votes” left by some iNat bot should disappear as soon as someone (i.e. a creature equipped with a brain and open to discussion) casts a vote. One less annoyance to counteract.


If you tip CV to Visually Similar for cultivated plants - you may get your answer.

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iNat bot which recognises - this plant here is cultivated - is triggered by the previous batch of ‘creatures equipped with a brain and open to discussion’

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