iNaturalist Phenology Data Applied

I was just looking at a journal post I made in 2020 on using iNaturalist phenology data for my research. Rereading it, it seems very relevant to anyone interesting in using or improving phenology data on iNaturalist, so I thought I’d share to a broader audience than the project I posted it on. Enjoy!

Note: images won’t show if your browser security settings don’t allow images sourced from http to be shown on a https site.



Nice idea. I’ve been doing the same for South American Cactaceae for nearly a year now and wish more observers would annotate their observations.

I’m reading your post but unfortunately none of the images are appearing. I think you may need to update the sources.


Oh yeah, someone made a comment about that at some point. It comes down to how you have your browser set up. Some browsers don’t like images sourced from http to https.

It’s based on the security settings. http is not considered as secure as https, so more and more browsers don’t like to work with it.

This is great, thank you for sharing, I am wondering if there is any coordinated effort to fill in the gaps on plant phenology on a regional scale, I have been keeping some taxa from Mexico, doing weekly updates for all of them, so far I am covering:

Order: Nymphaeales (Cabombaceae and Nymphaceae)


  1. Campanulaceae
  2. Pontederiaceae
  3. Alismataceae
  4. Orobanchaceae
  5. Liliaceae
  6. Iridaceae
  7. Amaryllidaceae
  8. Gentianaceae
  9. Polemoniaceae
  10. Aristolochiaceae
  11. Cornaceae
  12. Ranunculaceae


  1. Asclepiadoideae


  1. Senecioneae (Asteraceae)
  2. Tageteae (Asteraceae)
  3. Eupatorieae (Asteraceae)
  4. Mentheae (Lamiaceae)
    and some isolated taxa from Cactaceae.

I feel like this is a very rewarding work and for sure important information for the future.

Thanks for drawing attention to that post again @keirmorse. I have recommended to a few iNat users in the past few months as an example of the value of annotating iNat observations with phenology data. And thanks for the tip on fixing the image display issue — that makes it read a lot more easily!

Are you using Chrome? If so how did you fix the display issue? Thanks.

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Works fine on Firefox for me.

Related, there is a feature request that would resolve this issue here if you haven’t voted for it.

Question: is there a place where these stages are defined? I mostly wonder about fruiting. Do the seeds/fruits need to be ripe? Or just visible? How about plants where the fruits hang on through the winter - are they categorized as fruiting all through the winter?

I add annotations when the categories are clear, but I skip a lot of records in the ‘fruiting’ category because I’m not sure about the limits of the category.

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There’re some topics on forum, you can look them up, fruiting is from when flowering ends (so fruit starts to be visible) and all up to the moment when you see it last time, you can even annotate stalks from fruits, but it’s you who draws the line of when enough is enough.


That’s a very good question. If you hover over the category when annotating, it will give you a brief definition, but it is somewhat subjective and may vary by species. I’ve mostly annotated Malacothamnus as it is the genus I’m studying. Fruiting is the trickiest part. For Malacothamnus, I consider it fruiting when the flower closes up for good (or dries out in the few species where the flowers stay open). After flowering is done, you essentially have immature fruit, assuming pollination happened. Immature fruit is still fruit, but some species may not always produce fruit, so species should be considered here. I went to look for fruit on some Ribes this year and found plants where the old flowers had just fallen off and no fruit was produced. So, counting the dried flowers of those Ribes as fruit probably would have been a poor decision. Ribes you can actually see berries in the photos though when they are fruiting and Malacothamnus you can usually only see a dried flower.

The fruit on Malacothamnus can stay on the plant well into the next year for some species. I initially annotated those old fruits as fruiting but then decided to draw the line and not include old fruit from the previous season as it is misleading when viewing the statistics. I will, however, call something fruiting many months after it started fruiting if it persists until the plant starts its next yearly cycle. Again, every species will be different.


Sorry for the delayed response @mrtnlowr. On Chrome, click the “Not Secure” label to the left of the URL and then choose Site Settings.

Then scroll down to Insecure Content and change the setting to Allow

By doing this, you are choosing to allow Chrome to show you content from iNaturalist that is not encrypted in transit between the server and your browser (e.g. the images in @keirmorse’s post). I’m OK with that compromise, but other folks should decide what works for them.

Thanks! That worked.

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