iNaturalist in New York City - What to do?

Hello everyone. I am a brand new user of iNaturalist. I saw a Twitter thread recently that inspired me to get started using iNaturalist while I am out walking in New York City. So far, I have not recorded any observations because I am not sure what the etiquette/proper use is for a city. Obviously, there are plants throughout the city, but I am making an assumption that the vast majority are planted or not natural to the place. Does this mean I should not record them? I’ve looked through a lot of material that iNaturalist offered me when I downloaded the app and made an account, but I didn’t see something about what kinds of things I shouldn’t post as observations.

Would anyone be willing to give me some advice on the best way to use iNaturalist in a metropolitan city?

Thanks for any help offered!


Did you read the help page? It describes how you need to mark cultivated plants if you post them, you can post any organism you meet.


Thank you! The app starts you on the “Getting Started” section of this and I did not think to click the “Help” link above it to see the broader questions so I read every page except this one. I can’t believe I missed it!

I guess just one follow up would be - I am making an assumption that much of what I see in the city is captured/cultivated. If I am unsure, is it acceptable to rely on the community to correct an observation?

In a city pretty much 99% of trees will be planted, if you’re unsure if a plant is wild or not, sure, just write a comment and make more shots of it with surroundings, so other users could use their experience seeing your photos.


Thank you very much! Can’t wait to get started!


Good advice above! I would just add that cities are full of nature too - it’s just different to other areas. There are many wild, non-plant organisms in cities (most that are not obviously pets). Plants can be trickier, but its always fine to post just knowing that others may tick that they aren’t wild. You’re free to upload as many cultivated plants as you’d like, but just tick as “not wild” to help out the identifiers. Welcome to iNat and hope you have fun!


Looks like you’ve gotten good advice above, but I’d also add that NYC is FULL of wild plants. From sidewalk weeds to unmaintained lots to parks containing both successional and natural habitats, NYC has a great diversity of native and nonnative plants reproducing on their own. If you look into the history of botanical documentation before the city was so developed, it becomes clear that the area surrounding NY harbor was a veritable biodiversity hotspot, and a surprising amount of that biodiversity is still around in small pockets.

Aside from those areas that are maintained landscaping or have “planned forests” like central park and prospect park, most of the forested areas consist of naturally occurring, non-planted trees. Brooklyn’s probably the hardest borough to find natural habitat aside from a little bit of coastal stuff. When I lived in the city some of my favorite spots for natural plant communities were Inwood Hill Park, Pelham Bay Park, the various sections of Gateway National Recreation Area, the Staten Island Greenbelt parks, Mount Loretto Unique Area and Clay Pit Ponds state park. Great as those were, there were also tons of little weedy ignored areas that were often just as cool. There are also other folks in the city who do a lot of botanizing there (check out the field trips the NY Flora Association runs, for example) who can be great to get out with and learn from.

In spite of its urban nature it’s a great place for the botanist or general naturalist, truly. Have fun!


Enthusiastic iNatter @susanhewitt is in New York and no doubt would have some suggestions for you.

There really are a lot of wild things in New York. When in doubt, post.


On iNat check out the areas that have produced weedy plants, and start from there. Very likely you’d find that these lots to be full of other vegetation and insect life, all changing with the seasons.

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Like the 2 million rats living in New York City of various different species.:rat:


If you like plants, look for weeds, whether small or large. Plants growing in places where no human intentionally planted them. Plants that no human would intentionally plant.

But if you stop to smell the cultivated roses and other flowers, look for pollinators and other insects. Any insect you see outdoors (and most indoors!) in New York will be wild.


Look for insects! Unless you’re in an insect zoo, they’re all wild! ;)


Hi and welcome to iNat!
The spring songbird migration is starting now and should be going on for about two months or so. Big trees or patches of green such as in parks could be great places to find pretty birds you likely wouldn’t see year around as well.


any small flowers or plants growing in grasses, around sidewalks or road drainages, coming out of buildings in alleys, etc tend to be great places to find interesting things!
once you open your eyes to “the little things,” you’ll be amazed at everything you can find
insects, spiders, bugs, moths and other bugs you see around the house, around front porch lights, etc also tend to bring cool stuff.


Are there other invasive rats in NYC besides Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus?

No, only those two, but there several native and invasive mice.

I don’t know about NYC specifically, but since I got into observing lichen lately myself - cities usually do have quite a few lichen (pollution resistant ones at least). Just look on walls and sidewalks and trees. And those are always wild, even if the trees are cultivated.


even in a lawn or a garden or a crack in a sidewalk, there is usually quite a bit of diversity in the weeds / volunteers.

even if a tree is planted, there are usually lots of other organisms that it’ll support, from insects visiting the flowers and making galls in the leaves and twigs, to birds and squirrels in the branches, to fungi in the leaves and fruit and bark and surrounding soil.

NY is close to water, and you’ll find lots of stuff in and near the water – fish, dragonflies and other arthropods, birds, plants, etc.

sometimes, it’s interesting to observe things using tools techniques that others don’t often use. audio recording, macro lenses, UV flashlights, etc., all can provide a different perspective on even common subjects.

just for example, both of these types of organisms mentioned by others can be surprisingly stunning under UV, even if they are otherwise easy to overlook:


I’m mainly interested in plants and I often work in midtown Manhattan. I walked by a building site a while back - they’d knocked down some buildings and the site was flat gravelly dirt with a chain link fence around it. It was summer and I stood looking through the fence and counted fifty species of plants without even having to move. Mostly weeds and a few volunteef flowers and tomato seedlings (probably from somebody’s sandwich - has there ever been a tomato seed that didn’t sprout?) This was a block from Times Square. Nature really is everywhere, you just have to pay attention.


I believe they’re all Rattus norvegicus.