How to fill in the taxon when it is an unknown pathogen

I just posted an observation of leaf curl. Now, from what I just googled, leaf curl can be insect damage, a plant disease, or even caused by non-organic factors. I didn’t want to categorize it as “plants,” because it isn’t the plant I want identified, but the cause of the leaf curl. But leaving it blank might not get anyone to see it. What is the best-practice approach to this situation?

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I suggest adding an ID of “Life.” There are some identifiers who regularly search State of Matter Life observations for organisms that have more than one possible kingdom, including observations with plant damage. For observations with photos of such damage it’s much better than leaving the observation at “Unknown.”


You could ID it as the plant and in the description indicate that you wanted it to be for a symptom that could have multiple causes.

If you absolutely don’t want to ID it as the host plant, then Life, as @paloma suggested, is probably the best you can get.

Sometimes observations where the initial ID is not the organism that is the real subject get a few people confirming the ID, and then the observation is stuck for long periods while numerous people try to get it back onto the right organism, but it’s a good idea to give the name of the host plant in the description section (if known).


Right, but if there’s no way to be certain what is the cause, then there really is no possibility of identifying the “right” organism. In that case, as long as it doesn’t violate the observer’s intent (which is why I only suggested it for OP as an alternative), you could ID another organism.

e.g.1, There is an observation (I won’t share it, so as not to shame anyone) with the placeholder “sky”. It is a shot of a blue sky, with clouds and a contrail visible. The “sky” clearly signals the observer’s intent, but is abiotic so it can’t be IDed on iNat. I left a comment that we could possibly ID it as human based on the contrails in the sky if the observer agrees.
e.g.2, I saw an observation for stem fasciation in a plant. Since it could have so many causes, I identified it as the plant (there’s no fasciation without the plant, just like there’s no leaf curl without a plant) and the observer agreed to that ID (though if they hadn’t, I would have withdrawn it…again, respecting their intent).

I will ID these as Life most often. Over time I’ve learned a little about plant afflictions and can hazard a guess at Kingdom – ready, of course, to withdraw in the likely case I guessed wrong.

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Yes, and maybe repeat this in a comment also, for those like me who sometimes miss the description.

At the very least, hopefully you will get the host plant identified. And if someone responds to the comment and thinks they know what the pathogen is, then you can just duplicate the observation for the pathogen ID.

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