Let's Talk Annotations

I’ve used this both for flower buffing and for leaf buds in the spring…

Definitely thought it was leaf buds for a long time. The fact that it’s probably flower buds didn’t occur to me until I saw someone here on the forum refer to it as “reproductive phenology” a few weeks ago. I think clarification is a good idea, particularly since leaf and flower buds are different stages of growth and should be categorized separately.


Agree! And while we are at it, if a plant observation has no reproductive phenology going on (no flower buds, flowers, or fruits), the only option for now is to make no annotations. This case can’t be distinguished from the case where the observation simply hasn’t been evaluated yet. So to be fully functional, there should probably be a default “unknown” value, plus additional phenologic stages to select from such as seedling, vegetative, dormant, senescent, etc.


Very true, and I absolutely agree that we need more options for plant phenology. Since that had been well established in the annotations discussion, I refrained from mentioning here initially to keep this thread on-topic


6/19/19 Thank you for the annotation discussion link, that lead me to the annotations guide, all helpful.

Plant Phenology Annotations should be kept clean and simple to reduce confusion (& fuzzy data) by all observers and produce a solid record. Because the information records directly to the Species Site graphics for plant phenology it should be clear and accurate. I think initially the clarification between leaf and flower buds would be the best addition (maybe just have flower buds so the focus could be on reproductive phenology) with the default as “not recorded” rather than “unknow”. If observers take photos of only leaves for id posting there also maybe flowers so reproductive phenology is “not recorded” . If other plant phenology additions are considered I recommend reviewing the US National Phenology Network/Nature’s Notebook (NPN) site phenology list to have some consistency across Citizen Science sites. The NPN site is not really user friendly and I can’t easily find a template for plant phenology choices that is why I am not including a link.

Would it be helpful for observers to be reminded about recording the phenology when they are submitting their observations with a box that says “life sage” and then drop down to the choices? Maybe I have missed that in my own submission?

Why is there both a Seasonality graph and a Phenology graph?


In Juniperus, it seems to me dioecious vs monoecious is useful/interesting.
E.g., descriptions say J. grandis is something like 90% dioecious.
in more that 300 grandis observations, I have found only 1 monoecious.
The characteristic helps distinguish some adjacent species.

@loarie, Scott, would it be “easily” possible to do bulk annotations, somewhat similar to the way one can bulk add observations to project? It frankly takes too long, even with shortcuts, to annotate each one using the Identify module.

I’m also very interested in getting adults separated from larva in Lepidoptera. While I’m not a pro it would be pretty easy for anyone to separate lep images.



I would really love to see various sorts of “triage” interfaces like that. Life stage edits and Unknown/Life categorizations come to mind. If I had a stripped-down hot-key-enabled version of the ID interface — especially one that worked on mobile— I’d probably do things like that in spare moments instead of playing games on my phone!


“Associated plant” and “Associated animal” would be really useful.

A companion annotation category, “Type of association/interaction,” could utilize kiwifergus’s excellent list posted at https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/observation-field-standardization-wiki/380/12 Mar 31

What would really, tremendously help here would be computerized importation of associated plant/animal species data from the tangle of observation fields that include a species/genus/family name of a plant or animal.

It might be best to add the interaction(s) manually. Why? Well, I currently add “nectar plant” to my Bay Area pollinator observations even when the associated plant does not produce nectar. I do this to help the coordinator of the “Backyard Pollinators Bay Area” project. The project started out using the pre-existing “nectar plant” observation field for all pollinator interactions with plants. It has too many observations done this way to switch.

An automated way to add the “nectar plant” species to an “associated plant” Annotations field would probably be very welcome to that project’s coordinator.


So, shoudl we change the title “Plant phenology” to “Flowering Phenology”?


Yes, and add another option like “None Visible or Not Recorded”, which covers the other major issue with this annotation mentioned above: vegetative specimens and observations that just show leaves (which may be flowering, or not) are left to perpetually hang without an annotation.


Ideally none could be separated from unknown somehow to designate when it wasn’t blooming.

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Having none/unknown option(s) is something that would take some more discussion. But changing the title would be easy, so I’m just asking about that at the moment.


I would like to access detailed photos of leaves (our nature reserves appreciated the non-blooming photos from the City Challenge)

And also photos of seedlings, especially for trees.

“Flowering Phenology” would only apply to flowering plants, though. What about the rest of them?

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It doesn’t show up for other plants. And yeah @tiwane I do think the language change is worth it regardless.

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As Charlie says, the annotation should only show up on observations of Angiospermae.

Sorry to throw one more option here, but Ken-ichi suggested changing “Budding” to “Flower Budding”. I think this would allow us to keep the overall Plant Phenology category and eventually add other terms under it, so to me it seems like a more efficient choice. But, as has been made clear to me many times, I’m no botanist. ;-)


“Flowering Phenology” describes the current set of available annotations, so it works for me in that regard. But it does kinda limit the category if we want to add other life stages in the future other than flowering stages. And as already mentioned, it would be really nice to at least have a category for “not flowering or fruiting” or something like that, to distinguish from lack of annotation = not evaluated yet.

And yes, terms like Flowers Budding, Flowers Open, Fruits Developing, would more precisely define the annotations as currently intended, I think.

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Leaf phenology seems a lot more variable and nuanced between groups (e.g. compare grasses and deciduous trees), and possbily harder to determine stage from a photo. Did someone propose a simple, standardized annotation for leaves yet?


“Sex” isn’t a useful annotation for the vast majority of plants. It probably shouldn’t be displayed by default on the taxon pages: