Can we ask observers to pull invasive species?

I know from experience that ppl have a really hard time telling native and invasive plants apart…

Yarrow? Or Whitetop?

Diffuse knapweed? Or Chaenactis?

Russian knapweed? Or Sagebrush?

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It’s a slippery slope - aside from possible legal issues and potential mis-identifications, some of our most noxious invasives come roaring back with even more vigor after being “pulled” (Fallopia japonica, Ailanthus altissima, etc); others have to be disposed of properly (Ficaria verna) rather than just pulled and tossed, etc. I’d instead encourage people to post these to one of the many projects out there - eg. I’ve also reported to whomever is managing whatever land I’m walking through, especially if it’s something I believe to be a newly-emerging invasive. (Thanks for your ID confirmations, maryah)


And on the other side of the coin, one can actively use iNat to encourage removing aliens: e.g.

Not all aliens are hard to identify, and not all aliens are hard to kill.


I agree entirely Tony

Perhaps those of us here who say the chance of misidentifications in this endeavour is too great, can consider this as a future option once iNaturalist and its machine learning programs have further grown and invested in creating more accessible plant ID tools and resources. I will say unashamedly that I believe iNat needs to shift from being a platform that caters to bulk usership (rather leverage the City-Nature challenges as the means through which to attract tangible intake & interest in making and ID’ing observations) to one that educates and uplifts its core user base on relevant taxa as far as is possible. Once this happens, there will surely be very little room for ID/ eradication error and the likes?

Just my take on the matter


I am still IDing the CNC backlog of Unknowns for the Western Cape. And I am STILL finding gems, one for @beetledude and one for @botaneek in the last few days!

Very few of the new observers last beyond the target weekend. Some don’t realise that ‘iNat is for life’ not just for the Challenge. Others are done that, next.


If iNat would change its policy it would help new users too, because work on getting people stay is harder than just advertising and getting herds of new people who will spend a week observing, and if they’re lucky in their first days, imagine what they could contribute later!


In our current era of the Anthropocene, in the beginnings of what is widely acknowledged as the 6th major extinction event on our planet, I’m (politely) obliged to say that naturalist platforms such as iNat have an implied duty to make sure that its users are encouraged and well-facilitated enough to make as many observations of as many different species as is humanly possible, to counteract the very possible dilemma that we are losing species that have been the subject of precious little research or study, or worst of all, species that no human eyes have ever set their gaze on

One idea on how to achieve this, is allowing for more personalized accruement of benefits and incentives for individuals during CNC who reach a certain lowerbound target of obs for each taxa or group of organisms

I use iNat as my learning curve. That is my reward and benefit.

As many obs as possible is not a prospect that I find useful. Rather quality than a deluge of … next.

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If not well managed, that can lead to everyone in a given locality posting all of the most common weedy species. Sonchus oleraceus by twenty different users, Cirsium vulgare by the same twenty different users, and on down the list of the top 20 most ubiquitous weeds in the area.

Me neither. In fact, I’m at the point now that if the place I am visiting is in the United States, I will use the “explore” tab to find out which taxa have been uploaded the most in that area – so that I can be sure to avoid those taxa.


  • people could pull also native, and in certain cases, valuable species
  • people could damage the surrounding environment
  • people could use methods for pulling the invasive that are more detrimental than effective
  • people could hurt themselves without being ensured
  • some people could get a taste for pulling alien species
  • the invasive could be pulled before being studied by researchers


  • people interested in doing this could be potentially many and could represent an important workforce
  • people could have much more free time to follow the outcomes of an intervention of eradication
  • people could learn important aspects regarding biological invasions

After all, I see more cons than pros


Why is “getting a taste for pulling alien species” a con? I would have called that a pro.


That can lead to land errosion and such open spots are more likely to just get different introduced species growing on them.


Because I think that the eradication of alien species should be carried out in the framework of an official project supervised by professionals. There are too many things that cannot be controlled if these activities are carried out by non-skilled people.


If you limit the eradication of these species to “official projects” (whatever that means), very little progress would ever me made. In most areas and cases, the things that could possibly go wrong would have very little (if any) negative impact.

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I still thinks that these eradications should be made only when it is worth the risk. And the risk can be properly evaluated only by people that are deeply into it.
I do not mean that “common” people should not do this actions at all but simply that this important activities should not depend, or depend mainly, on the availability of people but should be funded by institutions and managed by paid professionals.

On the other hand, people could contribute with the mapping of alien species, especially in protected areas and in sensible habitats. And this is a priceless aspect of the whole thing.


Lots of good answers here already. I think it depends on location, purpose of that location, and having permission from the owner/manager. I find in most cases, park officials and rangers are happy to have you help. Our Native Plant Society routinely organizes invasive removal workdays. Doing it in a group is more fun and having a ranger to oversee the efforts reduces the likelihood that that wrong stuff gets pulled.

There may be instances though where you are told no to your offer to pull invasives. E.g. there have been several studies done on what gives invasives their competitive advantage at our university’s nature preserve, and pulling them out before completion of the field work would have ruined some students’ thesis projects. Once the studies were done, the invasives were tackled properly (in this case cutting and stump-painting with herbicide since they were woody plants).

Asking permission is important so any suggestion on iNat to pull things out should probably point that out as well, unless it’s obviously in the observers own yard.