Arboreal abrogation

No-one on iNaturalist seems to be interested in trees, wild or not in the recorded location. Am I wasting my time in uploading observations? Should I be using a different platform?

Suggestions please!

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I think it just takes time, especially as one moves away from birds and charismatic megafauna. Another thing that might be in play: how strong are your tree observations? Are you capturing the key features needed for species identification? Sometimes I photograph trees or tree trunks without also getting close ups of the leaf branch pattern and form, for example – these can be very hard to ID even for people who know their stuff.


There’re tons of people interested in trees on iNat, as well as millions of plant observations, if your observations have all the needed clues to id the tree (general view, bark, branch, buds, leaves from both sides and for some groups from different parts of branches, etc.), then they will be eventually ided, but you also can tag a local ider on some of them. You have 14 needs id for plants, that is realistically nothing. iNat is focused on wild things, so casual observations are in interest of only a few people, these observations are likely to not be checked ever.


This is my go to person for our trees
Whatever you observe, he sees The Tree.

But planted trees, as Marina says, will struggle to get IDs. If you help to ID local trees, you will find your network.


Maybe a big factor in this is that some of the trees observed are in a big urban center which means:

  • Captive/Casual Grade: There seems to be less interest in identifying these since iNat is biased towards wild/native plants, see topic: Relevance of cultivated species observations so they often get treated more like an ignore pile by some identifiers.
  • Non-Native: Local plant identifiers tend to be better at identifying local, native flora. Most commercial, decorative plants come from far away places that identifiers may not be familiar with so it could just be lack of knowledge about the plant.
  • Non-Interactive: Trees are really tall so it’s hard to get up close and touch/observe the flowers, fruit, leaves, branches etc. for a good photo. This leaves dry/dead leaves, which are harder to identify with or just not enough detail to be confident in the ID. Like most plants, if you can get flowers and fruit in the observation, it increases odds of others identifying. I think fewer people are willing to ID without these features.

I definitely appreciate the local, regular identifiers in my area, but especially those who also look at captive/cultivated observations, since the second point makes identifying them harder.

On the upside, commercial non-natives tend to be repetative, there are maybe 20-30 such popular species in an area, so once those are learned (by looking at captives in the area) it’s easy enough to identify them.

Edit: Added third point


There are over 8.5 million observations of trees (roughly speaking) on iNaturalist and over 70% of the “verifiable” ones have at least 2 identifications - definitely let us know more about the issue you’re running into!


I think you’re correct that there is a diminishment of interest and observation focus, within plants, as you move from “wildflowers” (showy-flowered herbaceous species), to large plants, especially those without showy flowers. This seems natural to me, since people will only make observations of things that catch their attention to begin with, and most users only make observations of things that grab their attention. If you look at the observations of very active botanical observers you will see they do make observations of trees, and other less attention-grabbing plants.

Rather than being a waste of time, I would say making observations of things of which you see few observations is vastly more useful.



I’ve been accused of not being able to see the forest for the trees (as the old saying goes). Actually I have the opposite issue when it comes to photographing trees — I forget to focus on them as individuals when I’m out enjoying the forest and fail to take adequate photos. I’m trying to rectify that. I still struggle with some of the conifers and need to spend more time on them. A good winter activity.


All the trees in my garden (not so big so not so many, currently 5) I have observed until they reach identification level, then periodically as they have interesting aspects, just as I do with the other plants. By no means am I special in observing trees, thus I think if you are looking for tree observations you may find them among those who observe in circumscribed areas or in the observations of generalists. Or traveling observers!

Like @dianastuder, I have my local go-to for tree identification here on the Peninsula.

One thing I have seen requested and try to do (but am poor about remembering 100%) is if I know the tree or plant on which I observe an insect, to note that in that observation of the insect. There are a number of insect-to-host studies that go on, it seems, so you never know when your tree observation or insect on tree observation will become really important. (I had a native vine that I observed and uploaded for months with various insects on it and now that species is under revision at UNAM and apparently they were able to draw a lot of data from those observations.)


I like trees. I like adding the observation field “Tree”; but since it requires a freeform text input, I’m never sure what was supposed to go there, so again I add, “tree.” But this seems to upset certain people, as I have gotten comments saying that the observation is already in the “Trees of [such-and-such place]” project – which I can’t see in the Identify tab.

It is possible to search for observations with a given observation field added, so if there are others besides me who know about the “Tree” field, adding it might help them to find trees specifically.

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