Helpful Tips and Resources for Beginner (Plant) iNatters AND Common Beginner Mistakes

Wow! I just found this post in the weekly forum update. This info will be great to share with my friends who join iNat and then struggle with their observations. Thanks for your efforts and sharing this with us!

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Absolutely. I saw a troop of Girl Scouts leave without a single one of their observation identified or even sorted because they messed up location or date or both.

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Yes. In Australia at least location is really useful, not because of the location itself but because of the plant families that occupy the plant community that a plant is observed in. A lot of the time the plant community as a whole can give a lot of hints as to what family, at least, an observation might belong to because different plant communities on the same soil type tend to host the same assemblage of plant families (with outliers of course, but the communities overall tend not to vary much and you can often – nearly always – narrow down a plant to family just by knowing the canopy species, location and soil type). I.e. in, say, a 1 x 1 km area that has the same soil type and the same canopy species you might consistently find the same 5 (just an example) plant families present with a few families as less commonly occurring. Focusing at first on 5 families compared to all plant families as a start is useful. You’re not going to find a Nothofagus moorei (family Nothofagaceae) which grows on basalt soils at high altitude in a eucalypt forest growing on metamorphic or alluvial soils, for example. So based on geology and altitude (location) you can rule out huge swathes of plant families to narrow the search for an ID. If I find myself in cloud forest with basalt soils and Nothofagus moorei at high altitude I can guess that there will be ferns, Cunoniaceae, Lauraceae, Atherospermataceae and maybe a few others and if I don’t know the plant I’ll check those before expanding. That saves a lot of time.



I joined iNaturalist on January 14, 2022 and I’m looking forward to making & adding many more observations and especially learning more about plants and animals so that I can identify them myself: as much as I love nature, my technical knowledge in the area of identification is minimal.

I have read that the forums are not really a place to post identification requests. I perfectly understand it—if I were to start making such requests, I am afraid that a separate forum and a dedicated team of experts would have to be created ;)

However, there is one shrub which I have been trying to identify for over 25 years and only a year ago I managed to find and photographs it. I would love to finally find out its name.

So, my question is if it is OK to post an ID request on the forum? If so, which forum? Or perhaps I should contact individual members directly?



The iNat discord server would be a good place to start - I don’t know if you’re familiar with Discord, but the iNat server is basically a place to discuss iNaturalist and nature, with a much looser mindset than the forum. There are dedicated channels for specific organisms, and one for asking for help with identifications. If you’re not interested in joining Discord, you could ask here if anyone is familiar with your area’s shrubs, then @-mention them on the observation you want identified. Or you could just leave it with a high-level ID and hope someone finds it. There’s a shortage of identifiers compared to the amount of new observations coming in, though, so I can’t guarantee anyone with the requisite knowledge to identify it will come across the observation.

Thanks for your suggestions!

I realize that it’s much easier to make & post an observation than identify it. With my very limited identification skills, I’m a little reluctant to post observations of species whose name I cannot even guess—and when it comes to shrubs (or plants in general), I don’t know where to start with their identification. Besides, I’m more interested in animals & fungi.

I’ll take a look at the iNat Discord server, too.

If it’s a shrub, just call it a Vascular Plant - but now I’m curious what it is, so please do post it!

Thanks! Should I post it here? Or under a different thread?

I think @lynnharper meant posting it as an observation on iNaturalist. In any case, you’ve got a few people who wish to take a look at your plant, and since your iNat profile is linked to your forum account it should be easy for anyone interested to find it. Plus, there might be more experienced plant identifiers around your area who might be able to help you as well.

Not to assume anything to or to be rude, but just a friendly reminder that if it’s a cultivated plant, make sure to mark it so—if not, carry on :wink:

Thanks, I just posted it under “Vascular Plant”, as I have no clue how to come with a name.

Thanks for the reminder, but I try to keep away from cultivated plants!

Nevertheless, I know that occasionally people would find cultivated plants (wheats, for example) in areas far from from any farmers’ fields. I wonder, if in such a case it’s still considered a “cultivated” plant?

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No, if they have spread from where humans originally planted them, they are considered “introduced,” but not cultivated. There are tons of discussions on the forum on that topic, so definitely search those out and don’t start another one here though :wink:

The iNat help page has some definitions and examples that help explain the definitions of “cultivated” and “wild” for the website.
In short: a normal wheat plant planted there by a human is considered to be cultivated. But say that wheat plant went to seed, and a seed dropped into a ditch, growing into another wheat plant. The one in the ditch would be considered “wild.”

And indeed, there are some grey areas—and plenty of discussion on the forum about that!

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Thanks! I can imagine that it’s not easy to draw a clear line between “wild” and “cultivated”.

I just want to inform you that the shrub has been more-less identified as “Wild Raisin, Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides.” I will certainly do more research and will try to find this shrub in the summer. While in a park, I’ll also contact a naturalist–some provincial parks in Ontario have one.

Thanks for your suggestions and assistance!

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Item 2) Photos for the same plant spread out in multiple observations. Being in my first week I can easily explain why people do this. If you click on observation the first thing that is asked is you to upload some photos or sounds. If you upload multiple files, all from the same observation, each file is assigned to a new observation. And you say to yourself; “Strange, this must be how the do it for some reason”.
The first couple times I deleted all the extra photos then added them as an edit after the record was created. Then while doing that my mouse slipped and I learned that you could drag one ‘observation’ onto another to combine them into one. I assume there is a more direct method and someday I may stumble on it.


There’s a combine button, but drag and drop is the method to use as it allows you to choose order.

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I Combine. Then use Edit to Re-Order Photos as I want them.

Drag and Drop seems to lose me on the way.

I can see how people reason that way… thanks for sharing another perspective! It’s been a few years since I called myself a beginner on iNaturalist ;-)

I realized I never explained exactly how to fix this… will update that.
With the web uploader, you can drag and drop the photos on top of each other so they go into the same observation. After creating one observation, dragging multiple photos onto that observation will combine those into that observation. You can also drag separate observations on top of each other to combine them into one.

With observations that have already been created, there’s fortunately is a guide on how to combine multiple observations into one.