Identifikation - what to do with obvios non-nativ species?

Hej everybody,

due to wet winterweather I am currently staying indoors in front of my computer and there is a limited amount of TV-series to watch, so I started to identify.
I am not an expert but fairly good at common native species and my love for purple helped to become quite good at Lamiaceae and Viola.

as you know people (including me) tent to start in their own garden because they are curious and “forget” or don’t see the box “in captvity/cultivated”.

what should an identifier do when he/she suggest a species name and knows that that particular species is a common gardenplant?
For example I started with Ajuga reptans which is a european native plant but also a cultivar.
I zoomed in the map and when I could see the natural habitat everything was ok for me.
could I see a City then I left a note to the observer to kindly check the captivity-box.

I believe that people need to learn that by them selv, also to get to know iNaturalist, its purpose and how to use it, so I don’t want to be the Party-pooper that points out mistakes.

But what to do now with for example Lavendula? this plant is obvious not native to northern europe and will maybe never spread to native areas. and there are quite alot observations registered. should I write a kind message (copy/paste) to all of them or should I leave it unidentified(but then it will become a “data-ghost”) or should I identify and just check the captivity-box and be done with it?

sorry for this long explanation, I hope you can follow my struggle and can help my german’s-souls-need-to-order :-)


Your call. If you’re aiming for efficiency, you can go through and in the identify window hit “x” on each one to mark it as cultivated. You can mark a lot very quickly and I’ve done this for common garden plants which never grow wild. Alternatively you can do a hybrid approach where you tell copy and paste a message about marking things as cultivated on random observations. Or you can tell every single person the message, but that takes a lot of time. There is no official guidance here so any approach is OK.

Here’s a page with a bunch of template responses including some about cultivated plants


If my first impression is ‘garden plant’ I will mark as Cultivated. But - only after I have added an ID.

I rarely leave a comment.


Thank you Kevin for the link and your suggetions

Hej Diana, ok that could be a compromise that could work for me in some cases :) thank you for your respons

Maybe you will find this (long) discussion helpful?

Too many obs needing IDs, so my comments are limited to people who seem likely to find them useful. Always respond to their questions.

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IDing Unknowns on iNat is like panning for gold. Two nuggets today.

A new species for the scientist

and a weird beetle


true - i love to dig through the old unknown obs - and only to prompt a bird into"bird"-category helpes others to give a correct id, thats nice and “satisfying”

had today a notification about and orchid, still under Id-ing, and I am curios if someone can find out what its name is :)

congrats on your nuggets

p.s thanks for the link


A plant which wasn’t planted or intentionally put there by someone can be considered wild and shouldn’t be marked as “cultivated”, even if is not native to the area. A Lavandula that was planted in a garden is of course cultivated but if it reproduces and spreads on its own and someone makes an observation of the offspring outside of the garden, the plants are regarded as wild and it doesn’t matter if the species is native or not (like this plant in a crack in the pavement: More information can be found in the iNat Help section:


WOW, a new species of Velvet worm! How fascinating.


It’s great to hear that you are helping sort the cultivated plants from the wild ones. In trying to decide whether a plant is cultivated or wild, it helps to focus on the question of intentionality. Did a person intentionally plant the specimen in a specific location? If yes, it’s Captive/Cultivated, no matter whether it is native, non-native or invasive. If the plant got into the location on its own, with no intention from humans, it’s not Captive/Cultivated.

Sometimes as an identifier, you can’t tell for sure, so then you can ask the observer. But if you can tell for sure that the plant is most likely or most definitely cultivated, here’s some text that you can cut and paste into the comments section:

"Did you know that scientists use iNaturalist observations to study the range of where plants CAN grow (with cultivation help from humans) and where they grow wild (with absolutely no help from humans)?

You can make your observations more useful for science if you consistently mark all plants that receive help from humans as “Captive/Cultivated”. Simply check the correct Captive/Cultivated box before you submit your observation. If you can’t find the box, write “Cultivated” or “Not wild” as a comment with your identification.

In general, you should probably mark the following types of plants as “Cultivated”:

–Plants in planters

–Plants in gardens (unless they are weeds)

–Flowers, bushes or ornamental trees in front of houses

–Street trees in urban areas

–Flowers, bushes, or trees in public parks surrounded by mowed grass

Of course, weeds, weed trees, and other unintended plants are wild plants. Wild plants should NOT be marked “Cultivated”. In fact, wild unintended plants are great to look for—they may be hard to find in the city, but they are the most interesting ones of all since they grow without our help."

You can edit this text any way you like to fit your own approach. But be sure to click the Captive/Cultivated flag as well so that the observation is properly classified.

Some observers and identifiers don’t know about the Captive/Cultivated flag. Others are afraid if they click that flag, the plants won’t be able to be shown on a map. But that’s not the case. To see Captive/Cultivated plants on a map, you use the filters button and unclick the Verifiable box. So lack of mapping capability should never be a reason not to click Captive/Cultivated.


Sounds like you have a good process going, @nikibifrost

I do various things. If the observation is recent and I can’t identify it, I may add a comment asking if the plant is wild, but don’t usually mark it cultivated. I sometimes see an identifier who makes long comments that explain why it’s important to distinguish between wild and cultivated plants. I admire that attempt to teach users, though I rarely make such comments.

If the observation is recent and I can confidently identify it, I identify it and mark it “cultivated.” I may leave a comment asking if it is cultivated (“planted in a garden or landscaping”) and asking the observer to comment if it is wild.

If the observation is older, I mark it cultivated whether I can identify it or not. I may leave a copy-paste question, but observers with low numbers of observations will probably never be back to see it.

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yes - I had that with 2 observations of Stachys byzantina. thats why I write to the observers :) thanks for your thoughts and the link @pastabaum

thanks @erikamitchell for the input, I think I will continue to ask the observers or leave a comment. and yes some of the users didn’t know about the cultivar-checkbox, so I explained :)

sounds plausible to me.
until now I took a species at a time and only for Denmark as location, that narrows the “work-load” emensly. :)
and I had good results with my process, I could find two Stachys byzantina that made it out into the wild, one true Prunella grandiflora, many mark the common version as big-flowered but they are not and I could help a user with that cultivar-check-box.
I think I will continue with my way for the particular species I care about.

also to you a big thanks for letting me know how you proceed and what your thought are during identifikation @sedgequeen


Living in the tropics it happens very often to my observations, that people mark them as captive/cultivated. Based on the bad reasoning: This species grows in my greenhouse / I have seen this species in a nursery/farm… your observation must therefore be captive/cultivated.
As this seems to be a common fallacy on iNat it certainly requires a name. I prefer to call this the “houseplant/livestock-fallacy”.

Well it can’t be emphasized enough, if there isn’t any indicator for captive/cultivated, then it’s probably wild/naturalized and should not be marked as captive/cultivated.

One example I brought back today from “casual”:

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Yes, I would mark that Coleus captive/cultivated. Interesting to learn that it’s a wild plant. Might be a good idea to routinely comment, “This is a wild plant” when posting such observations.

You can see who voted it Not wild - and it is easily reversed with your vote.

I require the plant to ‘look cultivated’ if I vote not wild. In a pot. Mown lawn. Formal path or built wall. It looks to me as if it is in a garden. For yours, I would zoom in - does it look ‘house and garden’ or out in nature?

Wild all the way. Plus, as the observer, yours, is the casting vote!

@sedgequeen all commonorgarden (unless they are horticultural horrors) are cherished wild and native plants at home. I have remind myself of that when I look another invasive alien species - somebody loves that somewhere.


In general, odd (non-green) leaf colors are not wild. Interesting to learn that Coleus is an exception.

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In general there is barely any rule in biology that doesn’t have plenty exceptions ;)

Here some more colourful/variegated leaves on wild plants (my own caribbean observations only):