"Cover image" photos that appear to be incorrect or don't display any feature to "prove" the ID

Hi everyone,

First of all, please let me know if this topic has already been discussed, but I did some searches and couldn’t find anything similar.

This question is in relation to plant ID which is all I do.

Occasionally I see what look to be taxon “cover photos” that are the wrong ID, and I wonder if it bothers anyone else. Search image is important! The wrong one or just a really poor one that doesn’t show some important ID feature could really confuse/mislead a lot of people. If iNat is partly about helping folks understand the scientific naming of organisms then a good cover photo could go a long way to encouraging more correct IDs.

Best I can tell the cover photo is auto-generated: it’s the first image of anything that gets to Research Grade, right? Apparently the cover photos are not vetted by anyone?

As an experiment to see if I could manipulate the cover image myself, I did a search for all the global observations of Oxytropis campestris spicata (late yellow locoweed). At that time (a few days ago), the first RGd obs. was clearly of a different species (O. sericea speciosa - early yellow locoweed - even the OP says so in the Notes section!). I added my ID of O. sericea (omitting the varietal name since often I find that this kind of extended ID goes ignored by the iNat system until someone else agrees with it - that’s another topic though). The obs. then reverted to Oxytropis sp. as per iNat community ID protocol. Here it is as of today 2022-07-02:

I thought this would cause the cover photo of O. c. spicata to move to the next RGd obs which has a date of ~3 months later and is correct (this one: https://inaturalist.ca/observations/3646809).
Unfortunately that hasn’t happened, and the incorrect cover photo persists in spite of it being no longer at RG:

What does it take to correct a cover photo? Does the whole concept just open up a Pandora’s box since of course people would disagree and/or maybe be offended? Does anyone else notice this or think about it, or am I just being too detail-oriented and need to mellow out :-) ?

Thank you for your help and feedback.


As the top observer and identifier, you are well qualified to edit the taxon photos as you see fit. Here are some examples of pictures that I hand picked.

Penstemon collage: Genus Penstemon (Beardtongues) · iNaturalist

  • If you add enough pictures, you get this tiled view, which shows a quick glance of diversity. You’ll also see that I have both flowers, leaves, and seeds at the front.

Hairy mountain-mahogany: Eastern Mountain-Mahogany (Cercocarpus breviflorus var. breviflorus) (inaturalist.org)

  • Flowers, seeds, leaves, and overall growth/habitat
  • All of Cercocarpus montanus var paucidentatus was split into C brev var brev, which is a few things are still weird there.

I am not sure how iNat adopts the initial taxon photo, but after that it is definitely user driven. Many photos were adopted in the earlier days of iNat and some are indeed incorrect. It is usually up to a knowledgeable user to notice the issue and correct it themselves.


I would happily do that for species that I am positive are wrong - but not sure how to delete an incorrect cover photo and replace it with a correctly id’d one.


I’m a relatively new user, so I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re asking about, but if you go to the information page about that taxon, scan along the links under the main photo (Map, About, Taxonomy, etc.), you’ll see “Curation” at the end. Click it and you’ll get a dropdown, and one choice is “Edit Photos.” Then you can select which photo is shown first, and what set of photos users can scroll through.


Go to the taxon page (see screenshot from egordon88 above, and click “Curation” then “Edit Photos”. You can find the best representative photos from there, or you can get the observation number of photos that you already know about (or find using “Observation” view), and copy/paste that number in the search box. From there, just drag and drop images from left to right or delete images using the X. Then hit “Save”.


I noticed one of these recently where my photo was being used as the cover photo for a species of fly that mines leaves. My opening photo in my observation was just a zoomed out photo of the host plant where the mines were barely visible. That one became the cover photo as opposed to the next 5 photos I had attached which actually cearly shows evidence of the fly.

Thanks buddy! That seems to have worked.

1 Like

If you search for “taxon photo” there’re previous topics about that.

1 Like

The first RG observation for a taxon gets used automatically to populate the cover photo. After that it is up to users to add or change photos. There are also some old Flickr photos that were used as taxon photos in the early days of the site.

This is a fairly common occurrence, and it would be great if you could document any examples here on this thread, and also vote for this feature request to make such errors easier to detect: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/flag-or-otherwise-mark-taxon-photos-whose-cid-doesnt-match-taxon/4556/17

Other than that, all we can do for now is correct these errors as we find them, as others have mentioned. Please do this, and don’t be worried about anyone getting offended by it - you are making iNaturalist a more accurate and reliable resource with your expertise!


I still see photos get pulled in automatically (maybe from Wikimedia?) when I create new taxa.


I have had the exact same experience. Your actions are my own, and the result was the same. The cover photo did finally change but it took weeks and weeks, maybe a couple of months. I am interested to hear from others.

1 Like

It doesn’t change on its own, only people manually can delete it, as described above.


Wow, thank you everyone for all the feedback, comments, solutions and moral support! I appreciate it all and am happy to know I can edit the cover photos where necessary. When I get a bit of free time (not easy in July!) I will follow up on your ideas and suggestions.


Ok, I fixed my example plant’s cover photo(s). How very satisfying! Thank you all again.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.