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.