Listing of organisms associating with a particular plant

Is there a way to get a listing of organisms associated with a particular plant? For example, one might want to use this to get a listing of insects associated with milkweeds.

iNaturalist itself has not enough data. But for europe, there’s a website for that purpose:


Global Biotic Interactions is sort of an aggregator for organism interaction data. so that could be a good general reference. for example:

however, there are other plant guides and specific papers that sometimes give a good list of this kind of thing. just depends on the plant and geography… are you interested specifically in milkweeds?


There’s a beta version of this that you can access by adding ?test=interactions to the URL of a species page. For example:

That will give you an Interactions tab (see this thread). However, beware that there may be errors in the interactions shown, such as plants that eat themselves (see @kueda response in that thread).


Thanks, everyone!

Where I develop an interest in the associations between organisms (usually a plant species that seems to be playing a significant role in the local ecology) I tag the obs photos with “XXXX-associated” e.g. Coronidium oxylepis associated. I can’t see a reason why something similar could not be adopted by iNat users.

You won’t generally see one of these tags on my iNat records, only because some of my tags (such as property owner) would be an invasion of privacy, and iNat vacuums up (hoovers up) any and all tags associated with an obs photo. So I try to remember to tag my photos after putting the record on iNat, otherwise I have to manually delete the tags with privacy issues.

to define organism interactions, i think it’s better to use iNat’s observations fields than it is to use tags. for example, in this observation of some finger galls (, there’s an observation field that notes the host is an elm. if you scroll down on the web page, you’ll also see that (because the observation is research grade and the observation field has been added) the interaction has been passed along to the Global Biotic Interactions system (


I added my vote to that cool feature request. Thank you!

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Search for a plant and scroll to the bottom for list. Not exhaustive. has similar functionality

Discover life tracks this more, at least for bees. The bottom of each species page lists plants recorded from bee observations. I suggest iNat somehow integrate this in a similar way as Discover Life, if ever possible.

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Thanks @pisum

I like the idea of an observation field that indicates interactions between species, and I like even more that this data is collated globally by GBI.

However there are several things I’d need to clarify before taking up the use of the interaction observation field approach.

  1. Perhaps I am a bit slow, but I can’t find anywhere a list of the interaction terms that can/should be used in the iNat observation field so that it can be incorporated (accurately) into GBI.

  2. If an organism is seen on a certain species of flower it might be harvesting nectar or eating pollen. It may also be pollinating (and bear in mind pollination is not generally the reason for an organism being on a flower, from the point of view of the on-flower organism pollination is an unintended consequence of another interaction). Without actually seeing pollen grains on the body of that organism we cannot conclude pollination as an interaction.

Many times these questions will not be able to be answered in the course of a brief observation or from a photograph.

The same applies to a bird in a tree, but with another factor added. If we observe a bird in a tree once, but do not observe any interaction, then this is not an association. If we regularly observe the same species of bird in that tree species, but never record an interaction, we have an association, but without a known interaction. Koalas provide an example of this type of association. If I regularly see koalas in a certain tree species, but do not observe it eating the leaves, what interaction should I record? Koalas eat almost exclusively at night and sleep for most of the day, so observation of feeding is unlikely. But if we do not record an association then we are never going to discover that koalas preferentially spend days in certain tree species for reasons such as: that species has a denser canopy of a colder trunk (on hot days) than the local feed trees, meaning that the tree species is an important shelter tree for koalas. If we only ever record associations that we can name at the time of observation, the situation will arise where only feed trees are listed for planting in koala-oriented revegetation programs, creating a sub-optimal habitat for the species.

How does one record an association without specifying an interaction?

  1. If I record associations where I cannot immediately identify an interaction then (a) when I have enough records to suggest a “relationship” of some kind, then this can become an avenue for research. If iNat/GBI do not collect data on associations then this cannot be an outcome.

  2. I don’t submit all of my photos or all of my observations to iNat, but I want to record associations or interactions with most photos and observations, and I am sure that many naturalists/biologists are in the same situation. If iNat/GBI do not accept tags/keywords then either I do double work with the obs that I submit to iNat or iNat misses out on that data. Virtually all the good photo management programs incorporate tags/keywords. So far as I know none of them include something called an “observation field”. Is iNat going down a less productive path with the insistence of observation fields rather than tags?

This makes me wonder why iNat harvests tags from submitted photos at all?

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i’m not sure if it’s iNat feeding data to GloBI or if it’s GloBI grabbing the data from iNat (or maybe through an intermediary like GBIF). if it’s the latter, you might have to get such a list from the folks at GloBI.

if you prefer loading tags, you could maybe make a feature request for new functionality to automatically translate certain tags like “Host:Ulmus alata” into an observation field. i don’t think observation fields is a perfection solution either, but it has a few advantages over tags (better searchability, more clarity, ability to be input by users other than the observer, etc.)

as with all community-sourced data, you have to take it with a grain of salt. of course more data points for a given interaction will probably mean it’s more reliable / generalizable, but having just a single data point doesn’t mean it’s an invalid interaction either. i think there’s a case to be made that it’s better to record the interaction and then just let the person analyzing the data judge whether there’s enough there to use for whatever they’re looking at.

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Thanks @pisum. Helpful and informative comments. I can see how difficult it becomes when there are several organisations in play, different ways of achieving more or less the same result, and iNat users with different objectives. I’ll spend some time thinking through your responses to determine what best suits my needs. I’m continually impressed by the way iNat continually throws up new ways of benefiting nature through both its diverse features and the creativity of its users.

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