Cultivated when on restored site?

Hi Everyone,

I normally iNat in the US, where it’s pretty obvious when something is cultivated or not. But I’m visiting Scotland and it’s not as clear to me – in part because I’m not sure what’s “native” and in part because you’ve been growing things here for hundreds of years. But here’s a specific example: this week I was wandering in the Kinneil Nature Reserve, a restored area where a coal mine used to be. So, is what I see there cultivated or not? Someone must have done significant planting on the coal site, but at this point, is it considered “re-wilded” and no longer cultivated? That’s my guess, but I’d like to hear what locals say. Thanks!


I would say it’s the same rules as a US restoration: the stuff planted for the restoration is cultivated, the new sprouts that came off the original plants is wild. Depending on how old the restoration is, determining what is new growth and what is original planting might be difficult, but if it’s several years old, it may not be a concern? Another consideration might be to contact the land managers and ask if there is any remnant areas.


Yes this is one of those grey areas that can be difficult to tell. If it is something that was obviously planted it will be considered cultivated forever (like a planted tree), but trees that grew from the planted tree’s fruits will be considered “wild”, even if they’re growing within the restoration area and not in a remnant area.

Here are iNat’s guidelines with some relevant bits highlighted:

Checking captive / cultivated means that the observation is of an organism that exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there. Likewise, wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because they intended to do so (or because of intention of another wild organism). The main reason we try to mark things like this is because iNat is primarily about observing wild organisms, not animals in zoos, garden plants, specimens in drawers, etc., and our scientific data partners are often not interested in (or downright alarmed by) observations of captive or cultivated organisms.

Since this tends to be kind of a gray area, here are some concrete examples:

Captive / cultivated (planted)

  • zebra in a zoo
  • poppy in a garden
  • tree planted 1, 10, or 100 years ago by humans
  • butterfly mounted in a display case and not appropriately marked with date and location of original collection
  • your pet such as a dog or cat
  • plants that grew from seeds that were planted in the ground or scattered


  • zebra in the Serengeti (assuming it’s not in a zoo in the Serengeti)
  • fly on a zebra in a zoo
  • weed or other unintended plant growing in a garden
  • butterfly that flew into a building
  • snake that you just picked up (yes, it’s in your hand where you intended it to be, but the place and time is where the snake intended to be)
  • feral dog or cat
  • your museum/herbarium specimens that are appropriately marked with date and location of original collection
  • garden plant that is reproducing on its own and spreading outside of the intended gardening area
  • a pigeon that benefits from human populations but is not actually raised by humans
  • a bird caught by a pet cat (presuming the bird isn’t also a pet)
  • a bird (not pet bird) that comes to an outdoor bird feeder
  • living organisms dispersed by the wind, water, and other forces apart from humans
  • a species that had been introduced to a new region and has established a population outside of human care

Have you looked at earlier obs there? To see whether they were wild or cultivated? Or if there is a project?

I would say that if you don’t know best practice is probably to leave as wild, and those with more knowledge can mark as cultivated in the future if they are indeed as such. If you learn more in the future that makes you feel like it’s cultivated you can always mark as such.

It might be tricky, but if there are species not readily reproducing you could use this to determine if a species is cultivated or not (although that alone is probably a reasonably good indicator of cultivation). When looking, it might be helpful to keep an eye out for cultivated observations that have comments as knowledgeable folks will occasionally share their rationale for marking another’s observation cultivated. Don’t take wild observations of a species as definitive proof that is is wild though, as there are many, many observations on the site which should be marked as cultivated (one only needs to look on the explore page at any city to see this).

We have a reintroduced population on Rondebosch Common. Only the researchers have the GPS to know - THIS one I planted. But those over there are newly established seedlings! Wiki has been updated


Just use common sense, thats what I do. If something is very obviously freshly planted, or if they just cast a bunch of seed and theres seedlings everywhere? Yeah probably don’t. But if its hard to tell just upload it anyway. Even if the specific plant you upload was planted theres probably “wild” recruits in the area, thats how I look at it.

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The “cultivated” rules have always been a bit murky in the UK where we have almost no untouched forest (or anything at all) like the Americans do. You could very reasonably make the case that most mature oaks outside of a couple sites should be counted as “cultivated” here - a lot of them probably were planted as timber trees hundreds of years ago - but good luck with that.

I think we all know what the iNat guidelines are in theory, they’ve been talked about over and over. In practice, I find with UK observations - if a tree is not “obviously” planted (e.g street trees, or with stakes, tags, or obviously in plantations, etc), if it’s mature and a species that could have reasonably self-sown (e.g English Oak or Beech can, Monkey-Puzzle or Atlas Cedar probably can’t), or obviously self-sown, then it usually stays as Research Grade.

Give it a few decades and most people would probably overlook those restored plants as cultivated (if they don’t already). And given that those ones are part of rewilding, well, by then they’ve probably made definitely-iNat-wild plants anyway.


Well put. I feel similarly about the “woods” in Utah. Things (mainly trees) were definitely put there by people but waaaaay back. And new stuff grows from that original stuff and I don’t think anybody knows which is which for the most part. I prefer to have those be considered wild because they function as wild plants, out in the wild, by themselves, mostly untouched by people. Some people feel that’s incorrect though because sometime ago, someone wanted them to be there.

Another thing is that a lot of the “woods” and “forests” are used for skiing, so people will clear a lot of the trees and build lodges and big fancy homes. The trees that surround those areas suddenly look like they’d be captive because they are right next to lodges and homes and ski slopes but they were there first, so I’d argue not. It’s hard to prove those things, though.


It’s actually part of a wider thing in UK circles oddly enough. Recording schemes here in… about the last 25 years or so have begun to include that are almost always park trees, or “obviously planted” trees. Not universally, mind!

This is useful for a couple reasons - often those trees are a part of nature, hosting bird’s nests, pollinators, leaf-miners, fungi, parasitic plants and so on. Also, if they become invasive (Tree of Heaven is a good example of this - it’s really difficult to predict where it might become invasive, because most of it was planted before this was done widely, so records of the now fruiting-or-suckering, mature trees are quite scattered - and now it is becoming invasive in the South East).

So in the recent Plant Atlas or handbooks you’ll find native trees like English Oak, naturalised trees like the Elms, barely-naturalised trees like the Foxglove Tree and even sterile trees like Leyland Cypress. The consensus in recording circles is gradually shifting to “they might not be “natural” in themselves, but they sure as hell support nature and themselves” - and in iNat terms, they’re probably as “wild” as the lindens or oaks nobody gives a second glance to. I do wish iNaturalist had a “grey area” for those trees - it seems a bit daft to lump them in with spoilt, well-pampered houseplants!


What do you all think about this scenario - a new trailhead was being built, which would destroy a large number of native plants in the process. We organized a native plant salvage - dug up as many plants as we could in the time we had to save them, potted them, took them to another site and watered them throughout the summer while the new parking area was being built. We then returned to the newly built trailhead and planted them back into the ground probably within 200-300ft of where they had been growing originally. Captive/cultivated or no?


I would say Wild - with a copypasta note of what you have told us. To preempt knee jerk disagreement ‘but it looks planted!’
Rescued then replanted ‘there’.

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Thanks all and apologies for taking so long to do so! I think the “common sense” rule is a pretty good one, but Diana, your advice to look at previous observations is also a good one. Basically, in my observations I assumed wild unless obviously cultivated.

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