How do I know which plants are interesting for identifiers and scientists?

I’ve started using iNat recently.
What should I observe that has scientific value or is interesing to identifiers community?
There are projects on spieces and genera, but I cannot find where I can get a list of projects by a number of participants. If I could, I could suppose at least that there are some spieces that interest many people.
What if I just observe widespread spieces in my backyard? Will the identifiers get bored of such data?
As for myself, I hardly can ID anything, and, as I understand, relying on AI ID is not what I’m supposed to do


Instead of focusing on what is interesting to scientists or identifiers, focus on what is interesting to you.

Yes, do this! The more you observe around you, the greater your ability will be to notice something rare or unusual. Monitoring common species is as important as monitoring uncommon ones. By monitoring common species now, we will have a much better idea of historic baselines in the future than we have for the past now.


Pretty much anything you observe is some form of useful. I’d recommend observing everything that looks new to you, and as you start to learn to ID the wildlife in your area you can adjust what you’re observing accordingly. Even if you see two plants that you think are the same but have some variation that you find interesting, don’t be afraid to make observations for them. Just remember that INat is for wild organisms and you’ll be fine.


More remote areas tend to be underrepresented, too, so you might consider taking some photos on backcountry hikes and road trips! Small, hard-to-see species also get less attention.


I agree with above comments saying to observe what you want to, but also I get the sentiment you’re expressing here. When I am planning a botanical outing, I look around the general area on the iNat map and try to find spots with few or no plant observations. I am still finding spots like this in my part of the LA area, and there are many active users here, so just about anywhere there should be spots like this left. I think filling these gaps is fun, and is certainly useful, as well as being more likely to turn up interesting finds (ie new occurrences of some species).


I want to echo that the most important thing is to observe things that interest you. However, if you’re just looking for a hot topic to get started, try pollinator-plant interactions. Tons of projects such as Pollinator Associations track pollinators visiting plants. You don’t have to ID the pollinators or the plants, someone else such as the one and only John Ascher or any one of the dozens of butterfly, bee, syrphid fly, and beetle experts will ID it, and plenty of people are identifying plants that have visible flowers.


100% agree on dinkophytes (tiny plant species) being overlooked. I started a project in Spring to try to increase observation attention on a group of tiny plants that I’ve been looking into. Search for “Wee Crassula Challenge”. :)


When dealing with a region that has little public land access, wooded cemeteries or cemeteries that may contain prairie remnants are often overlooked areas to botanize.

Designated Natural Heritage sites are always awesome along with WMAs or NWRs. Your average tourist will never visit these areas.

Roadsides are always overlooked for obvious reasons.

At the end of the day, just catalogue what you see until something pops out, something you’ve not seen before, it’s always a good feeling.


You really never know what’s going to be useful. So I would say upload anything you find interesting. If something is really interesting to a researcher they may reach out to you about your observations.

Another route is to be read up on conservation issues in your area. I have the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan to have an idea of what birds that land managers would want to know about on their sites.

Following up on that, reach out to your local conservation groups if you can. They may have specific things they are trying to find.


I tend to observe mainly plants that are flowering or have other reproductive structures like fruits or spore bodies. At least where I live in Brazil, photos of just the leaves are unlikely ever to be identified for most plants.


It’s fine to use INat Computer Vision to aid in your initial observation ID.
Just prefer to accept the ones that say, We are Pretty Sure this is…”


I think the key word here is “aid” – in other words, there is nothing wrong with using it as a starting point to get an idea of what you saw and narrow down the possibilities.

However, sometimes it seems that users blindly accept the CV suggestions without even taking a bit of time to look at the photos of that taxon and see if they look similar to their organism. It is generally a good idea to consider the suggestions critically and maybe look at the next higher taxonomic level or the “similar species” tab on the taxon page to check for lookalikes.


As others have said, record whatever interests you.

That said… if you’re in an urban area, the places that get overlooked are cemeteries (especially in Europe; where they’re often places that have been grass for hundreds of years) or brownfield and pavements (garden escapes are most likely to end up here; and if they can jump the garden wall, well, no reason they can’t make a break for it further away). I find I get the most ‘odd’ observations there - 1/3rd of England’s not-captive lavenders are my observations because nobody else notices those tiny little plants in the pavement.


I haven’t heard the phrase dinkophytes before and I’m delighted by it, thank you (I have a soft spot for the tiniest, easiest to miss, plants)


at least one or two other professional biologists have posted in this thread, so I’ll just briefly say:
it’s not so much that “whatever is interesting to you” is the thing to do for science – it’s the thing to do for your own fun. but if you are set on contributing to science? then upload everything you possibly can observe. that’s the real engine of data generation.
in my PhD work, I rely heavily on collections that are often 40-80 years old – that being a time of very large-scale botanical expeditions, some of the scientists on which collected hundreds or thousands of specimens just generally, because they didn’t know what would come in handy in the future. I’m the first person in decades to specialise in the study of the organism I chose; there’s not exactly an internet presence or a proponent of these flowers aside from me. so I would like to thank all the iNaturalist users who just happened across the plants I work with. most of those observations just come from people photographing whatever they think to observe!


In addition to all the great advice so far, I find a fun way to approach things for your own learning, as well as for scouting out what the community responds to, is to try to observe species you haven’t observed before. When you first start out, this is basically everything; but as you observe more, it may become helpful to specifically look for things you haven’t seen yet. If you append &unobserved_by_user_id=username (with your username at the end there) to an iNaturalist search URL, you’ll get only species you haven’t observed yet.

Once you get past the large, charismatic, and easy species in your area (hello, mallards!), this generally means learning to look at micro-habitats to find small things that live on the ground or on vertical surfaces, and revisiting the same areas in different seasons to see what appears as the seasons change.

You can visit new areas to observe things, which is a lot of fun, but you can also focus on a specific area and still constantly find new species; I’ve got nearly 5000 observations in a local urban forest, and I’ve still only seen a quarter of the species reported there on iNaturalist!


Something that helped nudge me in a particular direction was trying to post all the species in my area (Still a ongoing aim to keep increasing my species count), and see what gets the interest of specialists. I was always into spiders, but some comments on some harvestmen photos I posted got me shifting my arachnid focus. So I still love spiders, but put a lot of focus into harvestmen as well.

As everyone has said, you do you. But going broad initially is a great way to also maybe find a passion you wouldnt have known of.


Definitely just observe what you find interesting and want to observe!

(Edit- definitely ranted here and strayed from your exact question, so sorry about that. Hopefully it’s not annoying! General idea is, and not exactly what you asked, but I just recommend to not prioritize what is “useful” or “interesting” to others over what you find interesting in general or on that particular day.)

I say this as someone who loves this platform and learning about things like biogeography from it, but the scientific “usefulness” of the platform is generally pretty overstated. I’ve worked in a lab that used iNaturalist observations to identify collection sites, and it was helpful, don’t get me wrong. But also, had some of those people not uploaded observations, we likely would’ve had pretty much the same outcome, and most observations are used by scientists much less than the ones we looked at. And most of all, the research we did was completely unrelated to environmental conservation and of absolutely no benefit to humans or the planet overall. It was interesting, but not helpful to anyone.

I’m not trying to be negative. Observe what you want, explore new areas, learn from using the platform, etc. If that includes widespread and common species, go for it! Absolutely nothing wrong with that. In my opinion, people forming authentic connections with nature and ecological systems (whether taking photos for iNaturalist or without any smartphone or camera in hand) by far outweighs most of the purported benefit of observations. I love learning about nature, and iNaturalist provides a unique way to do that which wasn’t really possible before.

Regarding interesting or overlooked groups, in my personal (i.e. biased!) opinion, bryophytes like mosses and especially small liverworts are super interesting, and are extremely overlooked. For example, I recently found a species of moss that hasn’t been observed on iNat in my state or surrounding states, and is a county record (first scientific record of the species in the county). And it was in a suburban park! This was a super fun find and I’m excited about it. But in terms of its “usefulness” for conservation of ecological systems or greater environmental benefit, it’s basically zero. Once again, not being negative, it was super fun and rewarding. But it’s misleading to act like observations like this have some greater environmental benefit, when they very rarely do. (It would have some benefit if it was a state or federally listed species that would lead to special status / further conservation of the land its on.)

Bryophytes are also likely the most often misidentified group on iNaturalist. I’ve easily come across species where the vast majority of the observations in my state were certainly or likely wrong. They’re overlooked so it’s fairly easy to find something that hasn’t really been observed in your area before! (If you look hard and go to remote areas, especially.)

Have fun out there, so much to see and learn!


Variety is the key so take anything. Anything is a form of info. it helps document a wide range of species, from common backyard plants to any unusual finds. Even common species provide valuable data, especially if you observe them regularly.


Don’t worry about that.

Go for what interests you. That’s the main purpose of iNat, the research and data aspect is a nice additional bonus.

And different researchers will find different things useful. Some look at rare or unusual organisms, others common ones, some only at organisms in a specific ecosystem, others at just one species, others at interactions between species, etc.

There is no formula for what’s ‘best’ or ‘most helpful’. Observe what catches your interest and someone else will find that useful as well.