How should putative naturally occurring hybrid plants be labeled?

This may already be indicated somewhere on iNat, but I’d be very interested to know if there is a standard method for labeling photos of plants or other organisms that are very likely hybrids between two different species. I’m presently labeling such photos with just the genus name, but this seem unsatisfactory. Is there another option? If not perhaps this can be added to the list of future additions to iNat functionality.

a lot of commonly occurring hybrids do already have taxa for them. for example, Iris x fulvala (×-fulvala) is a cross between I. fulva and I. brevicaulis.

what kind of organism are you trying to classify?

EDIT: oh… “putative hybrid” means something specific… maybe my answer doesn’t apply here.

Well, the plants I’m talking about are not cultivars with established names but rather F1 hybrids that occur most often as single plants within large mixed species populations of the presumed (or putative) parental species…

The same thing noted for the Iris is true of many natural hybrids, not just cultivars. Checking to see if a possible hybrid already has a name in the literature would be a first step- I post a lot of natural oak hybrids and the iNaturalist taxonomy does include their names. Not all do, for example the common intergrading of black maple and sugar maple in my area- the literature acknowledges hybridity where the species co-occur but no one has named the hybrid. It would be nice to have a way to designate those. At present I do just leave them at genus with explanatory text in the description.

Welcome to the forums Mark, and good question!

The current curatorial guidance for adding hybrid taxon names to iNaturalist can be found here.

Bottom line, if it’s a well-known and recognized hybrid, there is a protocol for adding it to the iNaturalist taxonomy, even if not formally named in the literature (though that is preferable).

If it’s more of a one-off, best-guess scenario – maybe where someone else could reasonably assert a different parentage, and thereby need to add yet another hybrid taxon name to express that opinion – then it’s probably best dealt with as comments on a genus-level ID instead.

And of course there will be some gray areas between the above scenarios where best judgment is called for – what can o’worms or slippery slope might I be initiating by adding a particular hybrid taxon? Think orchid cultivars as one extreme example of where we don’t want to go.

Thanks, Jim. Of course, I’m referring to Castilleja hybrids, which I noted and studied for decades, though VERY few have established names and are of the one-of, F1 type hybrids. In other cases some are hybrid swarms that are self-sustaining, which presents a more difficult situation. I guess I’ll just continue with the protocol I’ve been using.

How should I report Celastrus (bittersweet) hybrids? Especially, when I am in a state where C. orbiculatus is a “Prohibited Eradicate” listed species?

For management and tracking purposes (I suspect) reporting Celastrus hybrids at the genus level is not helpful. Celastrus genus level plants (in my mind) are simply being flagged to check later to determine species in order to either kill orbiculatus or protect scandens.
Many measures have been undertaken to eliminate orbiculatus while preserving the declining scandens - so the “to be determined genus level” is really valuable.

That said, when I see Celastrus hybrids- either growing in Minnesota or observed in iNaturalist I am stuck and I don’t know the next best steps.

My preference (I think) would be to have a Celastrus hybrid category in which they would be placed-- Thoughts from others?

I am new to iNat and this may have been discussed before?
Thank you for any feedback, Dawn Littleton

Welcome to the forums, and thanks for the great question!

The official curatorial guidance for adding hybrid taxa to the iNaturalist taxonomy can be found here:

That said, it is possible for a Curator to add any hybrid to iNaturalist just using a standard hybrid formula name. You would want to start a flag on the genus first, and make a case for the value that the hybrid taxon/taxa would add to iNaturalist, and @ tag some other users who are frequent observers or identifiers of Celastrus to invite them to the discussion.

One caveat: if you are just guessing at the parentage of a particular naturally occurring hybrid, that could be problematic. For example, if we create a hybrid taxon for Celastrus A x Celastrus B, but someone else could come along and reasonably assert that, no, this looks like Celastrus A x Celastrus C instead, the taxonomy could become messy really fast if we add all possibilities. It’s best if they are widely accepted and easily recognized hybrids.


Thank you for your responses! The good news is they lead me to a few new questions.

  1. Pertaining to “guessing at the parentage” of a hybrid, I am (very) sure there are only two Celastrus species in the U.S. One native (scandens). The other is the horribly invasive, destructive (tho colorful) orbiculatus. This makes me feel comfortable that we (famous last words) will “always” know the parent species of Celastrus hybrids. I don’t know what other iNats know or how much they care about the hybrid issue. Is this
    something the Celastrus curator could help me with? And how would I reach him or her?

  2. I like the idea of getting feedback from the iNat community who are interested in Celastrus. Would @theirusername messages work in this particular community venue? If not, what is the venue you were recommending?

I hope not to be a newbie for too long!
Thank you again,

Sounds like you have a good case for adding the hybrid to the iNat Taxonomy, if observations of it are coming up frequently in iNaturalist. It doesn’t look like a genus with other hybrid cultivars that could be coming from other parts of the world.

Any iNaturalist curator can help with this genus. There is no specific curator designated for Celastrus.

Following is typically how such cases are handled:

  • Go to the Celastrus genus page in iNaturalist ( (You can find any taxon in iNaturalist by searching at
  • At right, click on the Curation dropdown, and select Flag for Curation.
  • For the flag reason, say something like “please add Celastrus orbiculatus × Celastrus scandens - see comments” and then click Flag It.
  • After the flag saves, you will see a link back to it at the top of the page. Open the flag up again, and add a comment detailing the information you already mentioned here, plus anything else that supports the case for adding a hybrid taxon. (I suggest having the comment text typed out ahead of time, so you can paste it into the comment box right away after creating and re-opening the flag.)
  • This comment is where you can also solicit feedback from iNatters interested in Celastrus. And yes, you would @ tag their usernames, just like you mentioned.
  • I suggest that you look up and include the top few identifiers and observers of Celastrus in the U.S. (or maybe North America?). To get this information you can start from Explore (, put Celastrus in the “species” box, and use Filters (not the Location box) to limit to the U.S. or North America. Then just click on the Identifiers and Observers tabs to see who the “leaders” are. The views should look like this:

Also, since I am one of the iNat curators, feel free to @ tag me (jdmore) in the flag comment if you want, and I can help to moderate and implement the results of any discussion.

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