How often to observe the EXACT same plant / tree?

I have seen the very helpful discussion of recording the same species of birds or insects day after day, but what I cannot find is a discussion of recording the exact same plant or tree. I do not mean the same species. I mean the exact same plant or tree. (Pick one, point at it, THAT one, that’s what I mean, today and then again tomorrow, same one.)

99% of the time I observe in one, very small prescribed area. Occasionally there is a new plant / tree, which I duly observe, but the trees and plants that are here are, well, staying.

My Ficus maxima is not going anywhere, and so while I uploaded observations when it was wee and unknown and then again when strange things sprung from it, I have not put in an observation of it in quite some time. Ditto the rain tree. Ditto, ditto ditto.

Vines aplenty I have, and these I observe from time to time as they change, flower or have extraordinary moments, but I wonder, is there some good rule when you 100% know it is the SAME specimen as the day before?

I apologize if this has been addressed and please lock and redirect, but I did a search and only saw discussions of birds/insects which would not be 100% the SAME organism, just the same species.

(I also have wildflowers (some call them weeds, whatever), and while I occasionally throw one in, since they recur, over and over within this prescribed place, how often is helpful to observe them? Are these more like insects/birds since they have shorter lifespans and thus are more temporary?)


A good rule of thumb is to observe the same individual organism not more frequently than once per day. I personally wouldn’t even observe that often unless I had some very specific purpose in mind, but to each their own!


I’ve wondered this very same thing! I have a few favorite trees that I pass by on trails I frequently hike, and I’ve sometimes iNatted the same tree a few times before realizing I’ve observed it before. I suppose repeated observations (or observations made by many different people of the same tree, as in the case of the famous giant sequoias) could be handy to document the health of the tree over the years, or its death or decline.


Be more selfish! :-) Don’t think so much about what might be helpful for others - observe what and how often YOU enjoy! I’m not much into plants, but if I had a favourite tree, I would probably only observe it if something has changed - flowering, fruiting, falling leaves etc.


I’m sometimes worried about regular identifiers of my observations and/or followers getting annoyed if I post the same orchid too many times so I try to limit myself - my rule is usually if the phenology has changed it’s worth another picture, so I can take one of leaves and the new flower shoot coming up, one with buds, one in full bloom, one with fruit… sometimes that may actually help with identification, some species lose their leaves when the flowers open, or only differ in fruit shape etc.


I don’t have a car, so my range for observing things is limited to where I can easily walk or ride my bicycle, weather permitting. So a lot of my observations are of the same individual plants, just at different times of the year.

I have started one project where I’m trying to take pictures of an individual swamp chestnut oak every day, to track how long it takes the acorns to mature and what its behavior is like throughout the whole growing season. The goal was to take a picture of it every day for a whole year, but that’s not working out according to plan, lol, due to bad weather, a dead opossum, broken glass, and other distractions.

Other individual plants I try to observe whenever I can, without making the trip just to see them. There are a lot of small-flower pawpaws (I think around 30 individuals but it’s hard to actually count them and keep track) on one area I like to walk through, so I’ll make new observations for them whenever I notice them, to keep track of the different ways they grow and look in the different times of the year.

Pretty much, as long as it’s not multiple observations for the same individual on the same day, you can observe them as many times as you want!

Reocurring observations give you the opportnity to keep track of the plant’s behavior (growth, flower budding, fruiting, growing new leaves, starting to lose leaves, ect) at different times of the year, which will teach you more about the species and learn when to expect what!


For plants, it really depends. I think if they aren’t doing anything too different from one day to the next, maybe once/week is good. However, with something like Queen of the Night (Cereus jamacaru), where the flower blooms for one night and can wither soon after, maybe taking photos every few hours might make sense? Similarly for dramatic weather events, where a monsoon storm can lead to dramatic growth in the weeks following.


If you know there is a particular wild-growing plant that is identifiable only by flowers but still otherwise distinct enough from the surrounding vegetation, it might help to photograph the plant with its flowers in season, and photograph the same plant when out of season. This may help to build up a overall picture/data set of the plant species when it’s not in flower!

For example, I’ve personally photographed an individual plant in and out of season:


If you want to link different observation of the same individu you can link them with the observation field ‘‘similar-observation-set’’
It is perfect for linking observations of different stages of a lifecycle when raising on lepidoptera.


I agree with @susanne-kasimir. Documenting changes is absolutely acceptable. Documenting budding, leafing, blooming, leaf drop etc. is great even if it is on the same specific tree. It is even better if you fill in the annotations section for the observation.


I was wondering the same about birds - I have a trio of Olive-Backed Sunbirds and a Black Butcherbird pair that I regularly see around where I live. I make observations of them sometimes, when I can get a good photo of them, but I only do so no more than once a week or so.

Same goes for resident butterflies in the same place - I regularly see a pair of Cairns Birdwings, which I suspect are the same ones

A dead opossum?

I agree with the above! Photo an individual tree as often as you want to. Preferably not more than once per day unless you notice a change, but it’s up to you.


I’m trying to imagine how a dead possum would matter…and then I realised…was it a zombie!?!
But that is neat to observe one tree every day; or almost that frequently. I want to start some swamp chestnut oaks for a friend, so I should really start watching the one near me.


You can each day, personally I wouldn’t observe it even once a year knowing it’s the same specimen.

1 Like

There is a tree watching programme in India called Seasonwatch. Focus is both education and tracking seasonality, and if relevant data is available what changes are happening.

They suggest watching the same tree atleast once a week.


Something similar in the US is


Very nice, thanks for sharing

yeah it was on the sidewalk in front of the tree, so then I got distracted observing it, then got more distracted trying to find a stick to move it into the treeline with so people could use the sidewalk, and by the time I was done it was starting to thunder so I had to go back inside lol, all without ever actually getting to the tree to take pictures of it.

1 Like

To echo what’s been said, I think daily is probably the closest interval that won’t lead to suspicions of being a duplicate. That’s probably a lot for most people but you should do what you want, as long as it’s not against any rule. And I think the daily interval would keep you within the “rules” (I don’t think duplicates are actually against any rule, that’s why I’m bunny-ears-ing it).

I’ve made observations of the same individual in the same day before, but it was to be silly and track a bug as it sat on a car. Because it was funny that the bug went so far on the car. It was seriously a whole day of that bug sitting on the car. And I specified in each observation what the location change was and the miles traveled. That was an exception, though. And probably the only time I’d ever do it.