Are culture-based observations considered 'wild'?

Assume there is a locality in which species x is not known to grow. If a human took some material from that locality and deliberately placed it under conditions favourable for species x, and if some inactive form (spore, egg, etc., that drifted into the locality) subsequently activated, would an observation of this activated organism be considered ‘wild’ on iNaturalist? On one hand the observation can be traced to an inactive form that really did exist in the locality, but on the other hand that inactive form might never have activated in that locality without human intervention; this would add to species x distributional and phenological data that is not representative of the natural biology.

This question has real implications for wild / non-wild status of cultured organisms, such as a fungus that grew from arid plant material placed in a humid container.

There are many discussions on this topic. Here are two - plant observers will likely know more.


I’ve seen those topics already, which articulate the existence of a grey area between wild and non-wild. Yes, what I describe is in the grey area, but what I would like to know is what the policy / convention is for the specific circumstance I’ve described. I haven’t seen that anywhere.

if it’s impossible to tell how this thing got there, i think you just call it wild, as long as the conditions you’re creating aren’t super atypical for the area. i think it’s analogous to someone clearing overgrown trees and then new plants sprouting from the seed bank in the ground underneath. those new plants probably wouldn’t exist there at that moment without humans, but they might have emerged in the absence of humans, too, through natural processes, such as if a fire or grazers went through and cleared the overgrown trees.

but if you think the stuff got there because of humans, then maybe err toward cultivated. i think this would be analogous to volunteer peppers or cantaloupes popping up in a compost pile where you occasionally put pepper and cantaloupe scraps.


If it was self seeded, or otherwise self propagating, and not tended; call it wild.


Thanks for your helpful response. I would be interested to see if others agree with you.

Would you classify a fungus grown in a humid container as ‘tended’?

i think there’s one other case that may be relevant to this discussion. if you took, say, a swab of a surface and then grew out the microbes in the lab, i think i would still call that wild (assuming the surface is not some sort of thing that doesn’t exist outside of a lab or something like that), though i would assign the location as the place where the collection took place, not where the microbes were grown out. in this situation, although you cultured the organisms, you did so to make them observable at human scale. i think that’s no different than, say running PCR before a nucleic acid sequencing or making a spore print in a controlled environment.

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I agree with @pisum - if you don’t know how it got there, it’s wild. For the fungus, it depends on how it got there. If you deliberately grow it, it’s ‘tended’. Fungus on a jar of food is likely wild. Dutch Elm Disease is a fungus introduced to NA, but is now wild.

I would go with the intent of the observer in cases where you culture or rear a specimen for identification. Where you trying to ID something from a wild location? Yes, then it’s wild. If you’re growing it for some other purpose, like eating or it’s pretty in a container, it’s not wild.


I’m referring to deliberate circumstances. If you consider deliberate culturing to be ‘tended’, do you consider ‘tendedness’ to equal non-wildness?

In contrast, the things that @pisum and @tallastro have written imply that they would consider deliberate cultures as wild.

Well, I’m no expert to be sure. But I would call it cultivated if it was grown in a jar on purpose. If it occurred spontaneously, I would consider it wild.

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I just need to clarify that it’s not a topic I have given a lot of thought to - I work mainly with moths. However, my take would be that if a fungus is grown in a container, it is not wild. If it gets out of the container (by whatever means) it becomes wild. I think the distinction is rather arbitrary, but it has been the topic of many threads!

Ok. Thank you both for your thoughts on this confusing matter.

If it got in that container by itself and you didn’t do anything for it specifically to make its life easier, then it’s wild.

As I have described above ("…deliberately placed it under conditions favourable…"), I am specifically interested in a circumstance where its life has been made easier. Using the fungus example, placing leaf litter in a humid container is a deliberate action to make the growth of any fungus (spores) in the leaf litter easier.

So in summary, I think we have the pro-non-wild teellbee, tallastro, mamestraconfigurata, and melodi_96 versus the pro-wild pisum.

If you’re taking care of it and then spores start to grow it means you take care of them too at this moment or before (doubt it’s easily trackable), that’s the main problem of it, if you can make it release spores and then abandon it, spores are wild.

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personally, i would classify the released fungus / spores as captive/cultivated, since they were cultured by a human and released into the environment by a human.

but i would classify the culture as wild at the location and date of collection. as noted earlier, the culture is just a process/method to make the wild organism observable at a human scale. this is no different from observations of organisms based on any of these other processes:

  • a specimen that taken in the field but prepped and photographed at another location
  • a photo that was taken in the field but blown up or otherwise processed at home to reveal features that weren’t observable in the field
  • a photo from a night/game cam that was taken in the field but reviewed and selected at a different time and location
  • a bat call that was taken in the field and processed at home into a spectrogram
  • a spore print taken at home from a mushroom collected in the field
  • DNA that was collected in the field but processed back in a lab

at the end of the day, jameskdouch’s culture would be evidence that an organism existed in the wild at a particular time and place (of collection), just like any of those items noted above. i think the key is to document the process thoroughly to establish sort of a chain of custody as best as you can.

even then, i’m sure some will still disagree with how to classify the observation (as wild or not). here’s another topic that i think shows how much disagreement there is on an analogous subject: and in this topic, i doubt you’ll find consensus either. so i think just classify it the way you think is right, and don’t be too upset if others disagree. that’s why the captive/wild DQA mechanism is a voting system, i suppose.


For me it’s not different than growing a cherry tree and see its fruit growing underneath it (not talking about how exactly it happens with cherries), you won’t call this new seedling cultivated, right?
I though point of observation was about those spores specifically, like, not what was collected for id, but just spores growing.

I think you misunderstood me. I have no intention of culturing fungus only to then release its spores in the wild. When I wrote “…the growth of any fungus (spores)…” I meant the development of any spores already naturally present, into a mature fungus.