Let's Talk Annotations

I edited (my idea for) the annotations… do you agree? Is is necessary to have a Queen (Hibernating) annotation?

For flowering plants, sex is not only « cannot be determined/female/male », but can also be hermaphroditic (most of the flowering plants) or monoecious. Can those be added?


It might be useful to add the item “dry” to the possible selection of plant
phenology. It would be useful, for example, for winter observations of dried grass
sticking out of the snow.


Very good idea!
So then we would have the annotations

diooecous: (female/male flowers on different plants)

  1. female (diooecous)
  2. male (diooecous)

and monooecous: (female/male flowers on the same plant)

  1. monooecous
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The sex annotation is available across the board, unlike all the others that appear to have been added to specific taxa only. You can even mark the sex for unknowns. So we end up with nonsensical stuff like bacteria and viruses with male/female annotation. I’m not sure what the rationale for this is. I assume there are historic reasons for why this annotation works this way. It looks like at some point it was decided that all of biology can be neatly sorted into two groups of male vs. female, which of course is very animal-centric and not the case for many other groups.

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I had one new iNatter who carefully marked her plant as Female.
Painfully difficult to explain - how - that no iNat is not sexist and, what, evaluating her obs differently because SHE is female.

How to explain to someone who does not yet know that some plants have male and female flowers on separate plants, and which is in your photo.

Never had a followup notification. I think she left iNat.


And hermaphroditic!

  • dioecious
    • female
    • male
  • monoecious = both female flowers and male flowers on the same plant (but female and male not in the same flower)
  • hermaphroditic = both female and male in the same flower
  • cannot be determine

Sex: pair, both

I have some observations that depict the animals mating or a male and female in the same place, in which the only correct annotation of sex would be a “pair”

There are a few observations that depict gynandromorphs, where the animal is both male and female

Observation is for one specimen only, so pair part won’t be added, just duplicate observation for male and female annotations.


What do you thing if gynandromorphs as they would be excluded from that rule?

For things like that (and the vast majority of plants) it would be nice to either have an “other” category or be able to annotate both male and female, just like it is possible to annotate a plant as both flowering and fruiting for phenology.


It would be cool to add, now I’m sure there’s an observation field if you don’t want to loose those observations.


Observations record individuals, and thus annotations describe the individual being recorded. So for dioecious plants, annotating an individual plant as male or female adds value. Monoecious and dioecious describe a taxon. Annotating an individual plant as monoecious or dioecious is redundant.

Again, iNat observations record individual organisms. Just add the Copulating Observation Field or a similar one to an observation showing a mating pair.

Do you have examples of this still appearing as an option for viruses and bacteria?

Those are so rare that I think you can easily address them with Observation Fields (eg https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/14486) or add them to projects like Amazing Aberrants.


A plant can currently be annotated either male or female, but not both male and female. Only dioecious plants can be annotated properly.
That’s why hermaphroditic is needed.
Monoecious too: it describes an individual with both female flowers and male flower on the same individual, but in different flowers.
Annotating an individual plant as monoecious or dioecious isn’t redundant.


Ah, that looks to be history, at least on my observations where we had joked about it. Thanks for fixing it!

Any chance we could get gametophyte/sporophyte annotations for mosses and such? I know I’m repeating myself but that would be a really cool addition for the plant nerds on iNat.


Dealing with the identification of leaf rosettes made me realize that the annotation “leaf rosette” under plant phenology would be very helpful. It would take a lot of time to search for leaf rosette pictures of a specific plant without this extra annotation, that’s why it would be much easier…

I really like the ideas of @prokhozhyj and @graysquirrel with the plant life stages dry and seedling.

To sum up, we should add the items “seedling”, then the three known “flowering”, “flower budding”, “fruiting”, “no evidence”, “leaf rosette” and “dry” to plant phenology.

What do you all think? Do you have something to add/criticize?


I just checked both observation fields and projects. There is a project for leaf rosettes that might be useful for finding such observations but it appears nobody has created an observation field for it yet.


Seedling would be useful.

Leaf rosette would be included in ‘no evidence of flowering’ which could be reworded positively to ‘leaves’


I know that sporophyte/gametophyte annotations for ferns/bryophytes/etc. has been suggested several times already, and I agree that that would be an amazing addition!

I’d also like to make a case for adding them for macroalgae, since a good chunk (if not the majority) of seaweeds have sporophyte and gametophyte individuals that live completely independently of each other. The gametophytes/sporophyte life stages of algae often have very different morphologies, ecologies, habitats, and seasonality, so being able to label them using annotations would be extremely useful metadata. Plus, since algal sporophytes don’t really have a sex, the current male/female/can’t be determined isn’t appropriate unless you know you have a gametophyte, and can figure out the sex of that gametophyte. If you have a sporophyte, male/female/can’t be determined can never apply - it can be determined, it’s just not male or female.

I think there are enough common seaweeds with easily-distinguishable gametophytes and sporophytes that it wouldn’t be too niche of an application (e.g. all kelps, turkish towel/Chondracanthus, turkish washcloth/Mastocarpus, false kelp/Petalonia, etc.). Plus, for people with a little more experience, there are lots more with reproductive structures that can be seen (and photographed) with a decent field lens or magnifying glass.

Overall I think it would be really beneficial to have, and more appropriate for most algae than the current annotation options.


No doubt it would be really useful to sort iNat plant observations into age classes, similar to animals. However, it’s hard to see how it could successfully be implemented across taxonomies - what constitutes a seedling for tree species with potential life spans measured in centuries, versus annual plants that complete their life cycles in a few weeks? I’m not aware of a commonly used criteria that applies to all plants - it’s generally something I’ve had to work to define on a species-by-species basis when doing field studies.