Is it worth it to upload personal collections?


I have been an orchid collector for about 4 years now and have recently gotten into Inaturalist. I was wondering if there is any scientific value behind observations of cultivated/domestic species in a home or greenhouse setting.

Thank you for your time and help,

Nicolas D. Perez

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welcome to the forum

provided you mark them as cultivated, then yes for sure
for example, high quality photos of cultivated plants provides useful reference material for others trying to ID the same taxa


It is beneficial, however there is a tick box on the observation upload menu labelled “captive / cultivated”, which should be ticked when uploading cultivated plants. I’ll show you where to find this here.

Just be aware that many cultivars can be hybrids. The plant breeding hobby often produces beautiful hybrids, which are then sold as cultivars under one of the parent species names. An example of this is garden primulas, which are often sold under the name Primula vulgaris, despite having crazy coloured flowers which are associated with being descended from Primula × polyantha hybrids.

Another example is the various Daffodil (Narcissus) cultivars which exist that people often upload to iNaturalist as species, when in reality many are complex hybrids, which also have selective breeding involved to make ID even more difficult. In these circumstance I truly believe genus level ID is the best way forward with them.

If your cultivated plant is a true species, with no selective breeding or hybridization involved I’d say it is very beneficial to ID to post cultivated observations at species level. Many species can be found in private collections or botanical gardens, which may not have photographs available to look at on iNaturalist.

If they’re cultivars or hybrids though I’d say it’d be best to upload them as genus unless you are certain in their ancestry.


Uploading cultivated orchids, especially rare ones, can be a great addition to iNaturalist. I remember years ago I was the first to upload an observation for an orchid species I photographed in a greenhouse setting that had no previous observations or photographs on iNaturalist, so doing that provided a first taxon photo for that species. As long as you mark it cultivated, as others have already pointed out, such observations can definitely be of interest and add value to the database.

Oh yes, another example of this is rhododendrons. There are a lot of “Catawbiense” rhodos being sold in nurseries, e.g. ‘Catawbiense Roseum’, that are actually hybrids with R. catawbiense as one of its parents. I live in an area where this species is native and this has led to some heated arguments with local gardeners who thought what they had bought and planted was straight species R. catawbiense because “the label said so” but what they have in their gardens is really ‘Catawbiense Roseum’ hybrid cultivars bred and reimported from Europe.


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