Disappointing consistent failure: users not marking observations as cultivated

Yes, I have had the same feeling many time. Indeed some, actually few, users who were asked to flag this kind of observations started to click on thumb-up beside “the organism is wild” to try to prevent that the observations would be marked as casual.
Anyway, the active choice not to voluntarily flag a potted plant is different from leaving a box unchecked because it could be not so well visible.
In the end, I think that people should join iNat well aware that it is meant for mapping wild organisms and not to ask for an identification of a plant they have been gifted or because someone (e.g. a teacher) has told them to do so in order to photograph something somewehere without a criterion.

1 Like

Nothing wrong in posting photos of, e.g., cultivated plants if they show interesting features. I previously suggested a user to start a project to collect observations of pottentially invasive plants that were cultivated in the surroundings of natural habitats.
Well photographed cultivated organisms can show morphological features that are important for the identification of the wild ones.


I think there’s actually huge value in documenting some kinds of cultivated plants - for instance, you could use the maps of certain common garden plants to overlay with population maps of at-risk pollinators, or birds, and see correlations… so don’t feel guilty about uploading them! I think the problem is not that these observations exist, but simply that they are usually not properly categorized.


I agree. My rule of thumb is, if it’s outdoors the data is valuable because wild creatures interact with it.
And it’s also legit to upload a cultivated potted indoor plant to show a potential new user the capabilities and general use of iNat, though of course I add it’s really meant for wild / outdoor organisms.


I have struggled with this casual versus ID issue ever since I joined iNat.

It is called naturalist not scientist - the ‘stated aim’ is to encourage non - scientists to see that green stuff as What Plant is That, or moving stuff as What Animal is That.

It is unfortunate that iNat uses one box for Needs ID, which tips to Casual. We bring our obs in the hope of getting an ID - that is our learning curve.

We need 2 boxes.

One for Needs ID, which goes to Research Grade when all conditions are satisfied (could then be greyed out as 'NOT wild ')

But please could we make a small cosmetic change - replace the judgmental Casual with Cultivated / Captive . And cultivated needs to come first, since the balance would tip to cultivated and exotic plants, rather than captive animals (or pets)?

We need a second box which toggles between Wild and Cultivated / Captive (and remains visible as such). This is a separate issue to whether the observation can be used for Research Grade.

I resent, when I can see that plant is clearly cultivated, that I have to degrade a valid obs by marking it Casual. Chuck it in the bin with the cute puppy videos! Next!!

If we want, to encourage them out there, to begin to see the value of Long live the wilderness yet, we need to reach out a hand and guide them to - that - pretty flower is invasive … this one is better because it supports local wildlife.

In grateful deference to the biologists here - iNat could add an option to hide from them Not Wild, Cultivated / Captive obs - so they can concentrate their useful time on what is worth their time.

In an ideal world, many city dwellers would be field biologists. But, most of us live in cities. The nature we see is gardens, parks, street trees. That should have value for naturalists.


Currently (unless it’s been changed since this) the only clear text instruction guiding new mobile users making their first observation explicitly says that it’s not necessary to add an identification. See the Android screenshots in this post: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/guiding-new-users-without-scaring-them-off/2242/5

Changing the wording of that message, and adding a couple similar messages for those other key concepts would help a lot.


You’re right, and sometimes people (old or new) legitimately don’t know what they’re looking at.

I was kind of thinking how sometimes new people fill out the description, thinking it’s the identification. I thought this as a pop-up could help that…and hoping it would also serve as a gentle prod if they’re just uploading without even trying to put anything.


That message did seem really badly worded to me too. I submitted a quick pull request to change it to something that sounds better to me, but maybe others want to give suggestions on the wording? :)


Diana, I love EVERYTHING you just wrote here.

I joined iNaturalist in 2016. It’s been a little over 3 years and I was somehow blithely unaware that when I marked an observation as captive/cultivated it was also removing it from the Needs ID pool (l thought people were just setting their own filters to ignore those observations).

I guess I can see the logic: it’s shorthand for “Needs [community] ID to get to Research Grade”, and non-wild things will never get to Research Grade…but that’s not how I ever read Needs ID. I don’t think that’s how most users would interpret the words “Needs ID”. And as you pointed out, that’s not how it should be read for the site’s goals (to encourage interaction with Nature).

Yes, captive/cultivated absolutely needs to remain in Needs ID, and the choice to not view them should be a personal setting, not the default.


Yes, @dianastuder has put it perfectly. Just because something is captive/cultivated should not mean that it disappears into the grey hole of ‘Casual’.

Wild organisms interact with non-wild organisms, and this is valuable information.

My particular frustration is that I rear caterpillars, and they eat whatever they eat including garden plants, which I need to get ID’d. I don’t understand garden plants (I’m a child of the veld (= natural vegetation)), but I do have to identify these plants somehow and, in theory, a global site like iNat is the best place to do this (with photos).

If I mark the plant as cultivated, I rarely get an ID. So what I do is leave it as wild until I get an ID, and then mark it as cultivated. All my rearings are submitted to the Caterpillar Rearing Group and we publish our records every couple of years. Therefore the IDs of both the moths and plants have to be as accurate as possible!


I agree with the answers made so far and I am often not sure what to do when I see an observation of a cultivated plant. I hesitate to mark it as "captive/cultivated” (even with a comment explaining it) because the observation is moved to “Casual” and the chance of getting an ID is massively reduced (Are there people looking through casual observations to ID them?). Even for observations which are already identified I have a bad feeling about it because clicking on “Organism is wild – No“ feels like degrading the observation. What is the best thing to do in these cases?


As a complete newbie here (this is my first post, though I have uploaded several observations), I have a question related to this. I’ve tried looking through the help section for the info about captive/cultivated vs wild and did not see this addressed - what about a photo of a wild bird at a bird feeder?
I added an observation of an American Goldfinch at one of my feeders. It’s obviously a wild organism, but would it technically be considered cultivated - since it was observed at a feeder - drawn there by humans? I mean, I, the human, do intend for it to exist there, in that location, by placing the feeder, though the bird is still making the choice to be there.
Please excuse the question, I understand the answer may be obvious to those more experienced. I am not a scientist - just a photographer who loves nature.
All that said, I am happy to have found someplace to share my observations of nature and since I found this site, I have spent many hours on here - sharing, reading, researching, learning.


Welcome to the Forum! I am also new here (started about a month ago and I really like iNat!). I think you don’t have to excuse for a question, it’s great that you ask!

Adding an observation of a wild bird at a feeder is perfectly fine since the bird decided to be there at this time, even if it is lured by the food. There is a good explanation here (but you have to find it first):



An observation is considered wild if it is at the location due to its own actions. Thus this is wild.


It’s best to mark them “captive/cultivated.” That protects the integrity of the data here.

However, you bring up two issues that bother me, too. I agree with the need to identify even “casual” records when we can. Also, that “thumbs down” thing on “organism wild” makes “not wild” seem like an insult, when it should be just informative. Perhaps that form could be modified.


Regarding an added step to select wild vs captive/cultivated:

@arboretum_amy said:
Several people have suggested that (including me!) and it is usually met with enormous push back. Many well-established users cringe at the idea of observation creation taking a second longer.

Yes, and therein lies part of the problem. Making the submission of a record very fast and easy might encourage more participation, especially by newcomers, but the downside is that it allows more records with problems to be uploaded. It would be interesting to compare the amount of time it takes for an average observer to snap a pic on their smartphone and upload it and how much time it takes for the average reviewer to “fix” that record. If the reviewer – or multiple reviewers – is spending more time and attention on the record than the submitter, then I think that’s a problem. Faster isn’t always better.


Not only that but having not enough guidance in the beginning can also negatively affect participation.
I was inspired by posts here in the forum to help reducing the number of “Unknowns” and in this category, I quite often find observations from people with a “last active” date a few days after their “joined” date. They probably added an observation, checked again after a few days, were disappointed because nobody added an ID, and never came back. @upupa-epops pointed out that the tutorial for beginners is really short. I think that expanding it could at least partially solve some of the problems which have been discussed here.


If we are realistic, no tutorial, onboarding etc is going to stop the flow of these. Between the fact most people won’t read it, students assigned to use the site who simply don’t give a crap about what they upload etc.

In order for this to work, someone still needs to set the flag. If a significant number of users (lets face it there are few if any identifiers who are interested in looking at these) turn it off, it just pushes the flagging down to fewer and fewer people, which creates a vicious circle as those fewer and fewer people get increasingly frustrated at the volume of them they see.


I agree with Erwin that miscategorized observations of non-wild organisms are an issue, one that has been discussed many times, but all we ask here is that a post should be more than a mere stating of a problem.


@tiwane here is a good reason to keep cultivated plants in the the Needs ID pool - with an option for serious scientists to choose to hide Cultivated / Captive.