Calling planted plants "cultivated", rather than just "planted" is confusing

The category "Captive - ‘cultivated’ " is confusing, and leads to people marking cultivars of plants, that have escaped from a garden, as “cultivated” / “not wild”. While this example was finally resolved, with enough of us marking it as “wild”, it was frustrating for the observer of a species otherwise found in a garden, that showed up growing up in a tree stump, outside of any garden, to have had her observation marked “not wild”. I’ve seen this situation repeatedly. While this plant clearly would qualify as “wild” by the detailed iNaturalist instructions on this (Wild: “a garden plant that is reproducing on its own and spreading outside of the intended gardening area”), most people don’t read those detailed instructions.
Why not change the language to “Captive - Planted”, rather than “Captive - Cultivated?” (I know you lose the alliteration.)


Because not all cultivated plants on iNat were planted, surely it’s the majority and it’d cool if both names were shown. As I remember those cases were discussed here:


Please, let’s not start this again. I believe it has been determined that anything deliberately planted is cultivated, and anything growing outside that has not been planted is wild. The original source does not matter.


I posed a comment on the observation, but i’ll put it again here. This example was not even done by a human who marked it as cultivated.

This was automatically marked as cultivated by iNat. When the majority of observations in an area are cultivated, it automatically starts marking all new observations as such. This is generally a very useful mechanism but this is an edge case.

Also, cultivated and planted are basically synonyms.


A variety level taxon can have been “cultivated” to become a “culitvar”. So I will argue that “cultivated” can both mean “planted”, as well as referring to a cultivar of a taxon having been “cultivated”.

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Thanks stewartwechsler. I think it would be much more scientific if the identifications were not all marked cultivated automatically just because the observed plant is usually cultivated in the location one observed it in. It’s especially frustrating when you and I both marked my observation as uncultivated, multiple times, and it kept being switched back to cultivated. I even explained in my notes that this plant was growing in the wild. There must be a more accurate and scientific way to do this. I believe your suggestion would help. Unfortunately, It won’t help with INat auto marking the observations cultivated.

I already replied to your post on my observation, but I will reply to you here as well. I did not know INaturalist did that. That is not scientific. What if someone is trying to document plants that have escaped cultivated areas, and may be speading in the wild? This information could be useful for tracking and identifying new kinds of invasive plant species. @kevinfaccenda

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If it somehow switched back without votes it’s a bug, this system is flawed, but it’s working pretty ok, as all you need is one more vote to get it out of casual status.
I don’t know what you call unscientific, you can see who voted it without problems.
Active observers should check for captive marks not just because of automatic votes, but because people do that too, so it’s essetial to check own cultivated observations once in a while.


@melodi_96 Yes, it was changed back to cultivated after @stewartwechsler and I both marked it as uncultivated. If it is a bug, I hope it is fixed, since it is preventing the documentation of accurate data. I don’t have the time to constantly check if my observations have been switched for no reason. Thank you for your feedback.

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Thank you for clarifying that I could see who marked something as “not wild”. I didn’t realize before that I could click on the number, separate from clicking on the thumbs down symbol that would have added my vote to saying it is “not wild”, to see who voted it as “not wild”.


While I understand that the term “cultivated” is technically correct to describe plants that are planted intentionally in most cases, I completely agree with this sentiment. The terminology is a bit confusing. Cultivation is a complex process involving extensive human interaction, and on rare occasions is at odds with the iNaturalist definition of the term. I may be a bit of an outlier, but my personal actions are definitely crossing a line between “cultivated” and “planted.”

For example, I have a hobby of transplanting previously wild plants into other settings in order to take advantage of the wild characteristics of those plants. This is hardly cultivation, but I always mark these observations as “captive/cultivated” because they are by no means wild. I interfered with the dispersal of the plant.

I’ll give two examples:

  1. Wild purslane (Portulca oleracea) is fantastic at adapting to local conditions, and so I will transplant wild examples into a centralized location for future harvest. This is hardly cultivation, but I mark them as such because they are no longer wild. They have been artificially transported and are now under my care.
  2. Turkey tangle frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is a fantastic native groundcover option in my region for landscaping, and so I will transplant these plants from places where they aren’t wanted to locations where they are. This, again, is hardly cultivation because the plants naturally acclimated to their situation without human assistance and I later transported them. So, they aren’t wild, but “cultivation” is a stretch.

In conclusion, I whole-heartedly agree with iNat’s distinction between wild vs. non-wild guidelines, but the term “cultivation” is a bit of a loaded term since its traditional definition is at odds with the definition being used on iNaturalist.


I’ve got the same hobby, @bennypoo : )

My question/concern about this iNat designation is that very soon after transplanting, nobody else who observes those plants would know that they aren’t wild. As the transplanter, I can totally get on board with marking my observations of those plants that I moved myself as cultivated, though it seems this checkbox is lacking nuance. Land management practices are not automatically “Casual”

I’m pretty new here, but I’ve already seen loads of “Research Grade” observations in places that are definitely managed landscapes…

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You are free to mark those obs ‘Not Wild’. I have just clicked thru a bunch of Cape Chestnut obs around Cape Town - natural range is from Swellendam. Many of those obs are obviously in a cared for space … path, lawn, fence, buildings. It skews the distribution map to wrong

If the observer has explained that it was not actively planted - I obviously defer to that and leave it at Wild.


I would argue that it is scientific. Every observation works on a democratic system of votes, regardless of whether the system initially guesses that it is wild or cultivated. For simplicity, the system has two statuses – wild or cultivated – so necessarily the system has to guess one way or the other until somebody adds a vote. I would say that it’s more accurate overall for the system to start off each observation’s status with an intelligent guess based on evidence rather than a blind assumption based on nothing.

As the observer, you are always free to cast the first vote at the time of initial posting.


Sounds like the program needs to be tweaked so that it doesn’t mark things BACK to cultivated if they’ve been marked wild by a human.


Thanks for your reply. The reason I said it is not scientific is because my observation was being switched automatically after @stewartwechsler and I had already marked it as not wild. I was concerned that INaturalist was going to keep doing that. Making it impossible to keep it marked not cultivated, even though it is growing wild. I agree that having others way in is scientific, and I understand that it can be beneficial and convenient to have INaturalist start the vote based on the current data. My concern is that since there are limited people available for identification in certain areas, this may interfere with unusual data being used for science, and for public education, which is to my understanding one of INaturalist main goals.


I agree with @dianastuder . Most users, unfortunately, simply don’t understand what iNaturalist was originally intended for and submit data with all kinds of data quality problems that are difficult to address after the fact without input from the original user. So, if you suspect a plant was planted, regardless of circumstance, you should mark it as “not wild/cultivated,” and then ask the original poster if they know whether the plant was planted or arrived naturally.


That depends on how you define distribution.

Ah - I want to be able to use the distribution map to tell me - this plant occurs naturally here, that one is planted in a garden, and THAT one is invasive. I want, but use the map as best I can.


That’s exactly what I do. If you wait for an answer before marking an observation as “not wild” people who don’t know or don’t care may ignore you.

But the observer deserves to be asked or notified.

My one–very big–objection to auto-marking is that the computer should tell the observer what it did, provide a link to how to un-do the “not wild” designation, and remind the observer that treating a garden plant as wild messes up the data, especially for species that can become invasive.

In all other respects, iNat is determinedly in favor of giving the observer respect and choice–even letting people delete all their observations and obliterate identifications and ID discussions by other members about the deleted observations. This is a total 180 degree turnaround.