Casual vs. Restorative

Should regional natives that have been cultivated within their appropriate region be labeled as “restorative” rather than “casual”?

This might subtly encourage people toward the Tallamy ethos while preserving the scientific designation of wild and naturally occurring.


Native species in cultivation can be from who knows here genetically, anyway they’re still casual for now until casual will be split, but even then I doubt they will be called anything but “cultivated”, it’s a nice idea, but there will be more problems like “what is native and do we really know where the plant is native and where it’s introduced?”, “how many of species have correctly assigned statuses and is there a way to check it?”. Plus, most native plants are not planted to restore native habitats, birches, oaks, maples, etc. are used as common urban trees because they feel ok there.


That’s a good point. I actually try to avoid using the word native. But I’m sensitive to the fact that I’m not an ecologist and probably shouldn’t engage in ecological fitting of non-native species. My larger point is that after removing all the honeysuckle and garlic mustard from my lot I was left with a moonscape and chose to try my best to source local genotypes and re-establish an ecologically appropriate herbaceous layer and under-story. It was anything but “casual”. Maybe “intentional” is a better word. I dunno. It’s just that “casual” doesn’t capture my intent.



Are you referring to restoration specifically where a fragmented or empty habitat is “restored” with natives? This is a tricky question because most of the time restoration is ill-informed, and plants that are native to the state but not the area are included (we get a lot of Mexican species even restored in our Californian areas). So I’d usually lean no, but if it’s a native plant that blends in with where it should be, I don’t think there’s a great issue if it ends up being marked research grade.


It still matters even if it’s called casual, you can try to observe new saplings/seedlings that you find, those are wild, you can observe all the animals on those plants and add links to the observations of them, making them more visible that way.


“Cultivated” works. There is nothing inherently casual or wrong with cultivation. It effectively communicates the intent and allows others to judge for themselves whether or not I have cultivated appropriate species for the purposes of restoration. My point is… all the effort I’ve put in doesn’t feel casual.


My understanding is that once your planting is naturalized and self-sustaining it would count as wild, even if you planted the plant’s parent. The first generation (even if long-lived and perennial) would count as captive/cultivated, hence “casual” in iNat’s shorthand.


That’s something else I’ve wondered about actually. Because if the parent plant was planted and a new one grows from seed there’s no way of knowing 100% that the new one was from the planted parent. I planted some Wild Hyacinth about 10 years ago. Initially there was only one bloom. Now there are three in a clump which probably means it is spreading rhizomatically. I still view this as cultivated. But getting it to the point where it will spread again where I planted it has been anything but casual.

These plants that you’ve planted yourself should be marked as cultivated, however any offspring these plants may have would be considered wild.


I’d argue in a restoration situation that if the plants were literally planted in a spot. In your case if you planted the spicebush, then it deserves the cultivated/casual tag. However, if you make observations of new spicebush plants that are naturalizing on that property that those do not deserve the casual tag. Thus I I would tag trees clearly planted in a city to be casual observations, but if those trees started growing by themselves in an empty lot, those should be treated as wild.


Is the suggestion that a new category is to be introduced? If so, what are the implications to long-term data if a new category (restored) is introduced?

If the point is that the work doesn’t seem casual, then we hear you! You spent time, energy, emotion, money to contribute to what you see as healthy ecology, and you would like the fruits to be more than “casual.” The observation is what is judged as casual, not your efforts or intentions. The latter we can celebrate here :partying_face: :star_struck:


There is a state park that I go to often where it would be “restorative”, but all of the original plantings are gone and have reproduced heavily. There are over 100 species of plants that were planted many years ago and have spread like a wildfire. They are still controlled but are not watered.
Whenever they are marked captive it frustrates me since they are 3rd or 4th generation plants.


Restoring your property sounds like a great project. I certainly think that type of thing has value, and I don’t think the fact that observations of plants that you have planted will be casual on iNat devalues your work. Casual as a category has a definition very specific to iNat (and there’s lot of discussion, but no clear agreement on what might be a better term).

iNat’s focus is intentionally on “wild” (non-cultivated) organisms, so this is one of the philosophical reasons why cultivated plants are categorized as casual. Essentially, the cultivated organism is where it is because a human intentionally placed it there. Subsequent generations that seed and produce on their own away from the parent would certainly be considered wild.


A common discussion topic for good reason. A more thorough labeling system could be something like

Casual - missing data
Casual - missing media
Casual - can’t be improved
Casual - multiple organisms
Cultivated - native
Cultivated - nonnative

I have uploaded 230 “cultivated” observations of 95 plant species from my garden in New Mexico. A majority are locally or regionally native and some, like grama grasses and globemallow, have begun to reproduce and spread within the garden.


I’m not professionally trained in any of this stuff and wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for a new category. I really wanted to know how others (including those with professional training) thought about it… which is why I posted it as a question. I do think a label of “restorative” might result in too much use of “restorative” for things that are questionable… I had never thought of it that way.

Mostly… it’s just helpful to see how other passionate people think about it.

I won’t lose any sleep if some of my observations remain casual. I’ll continue thoughtfully labeling which to me means…

anything planted = casual / cultivated
anything rhizomatically spreading from something planted = casual /cultivated
anything popping up where I can’t be sure how it got there = naturally occurring


I don’t think the word “casual” devalues my effort. That would be going too far. I love iNat and am fine if it remains exactly as it is. But it’s worth asking whether or not the word “casual” might elicit behavior contrary to what the creators of iNat are hoping for. It may be unintentionally discouraging ecological restoration. Not because it devalues it. I hope everyone sees the value. But because it mislabels it as “casual” when it’s actually “intentional cultivation”.

“Casual” is a term also used for non plant observations, where cultivation doesn’t directly apply. Critters can be captive, for example, which is ostensibly a similar concept. So it’d be a consideration to understand what any change to the definition would mean outside the immediate planty scope.

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if( kingdom == plantae)
label = “intentionally cultivated”;
label = “casual”;


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Lots of heated discussions about this on the Forum.
First iNat asks - Is it Wild?
When we say no, instead of labelling it as what we said - Not Wild
iNat tips it over to a value judgement. Casual. And tips it out of Needs ID.

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I do see the value in highlighting cultivated but ecologically restorative plant observations, but I’m not sure that the label is the right place to do that. In terms of scientific research, it’s important to recognize that intentional anthropogenic intervention has brought this species to this particular location, especially when the research aims to map naturally-occurring distributions/ranges. “Casual” may not be the best word, but I’m not sure these observations should reach research-grade status as it might skew scientific data.

Given the Tallamy ethos, perhaps something more appropriate would be to create a project that people can add their “casual” observations of cultivated native plantings with ecological restoration value, and maybe even expand the project to include the visiting insects, animals, and fungi that benefit from these plantings. For example, I have a tag that I use to document (mostly) insects interacting with the native plantings at my house-- right now it’s at about 44 species, and I enjoy watching that list grow. I’ve never documented the plantings themselves but I would be motivated to if there were a project that I could showcase them in!

Edit: I made a project! Feel free to reply with any suggestions or ideas you have to go with it (it could really use a shorter name), and please add your observations that fit this concept! I thought it would be good to also showcase the visitors and the larval colonies these promote, so it won’t just be limited to cultivated native plantings.