Mapping Trees on OpenStreetMap

Has anyone here done a significant amount of mapping of trees on OpenStreetMap?

The OpenStreetMap community does have precedents and preferences for which trees should be mapped, what information should be included for individual trees, and how that information should be specified there. Certainly, those standards should be respected, so it is advisable to check with the OpenStreetMap Community Forum or other authoritative sources if there is any uncertainty about how to do this.

Following is a map from a query in their overpass turbo tool to find mapped trees in the New York City area:

An example of JSON data for a particular Shingle Oak on that map is:

{
  "type": "node",
  "id": 10932225451,
  "lat": 40.6949873,
  "lon": -73.9335144,
  "tags": {
    "natural": "tree",
    "species": "Quercus imbricaria",
    "species:wikidata": "Q528713",
    "species:wikipedia": "en:Quercus imbricaria"
  }
},

Since we are a community of naturalists, I thought it might be of value to learn some perspectives of those among us who have been dealing with what information it would be useful to include that might be especially interesting to naturalists, when mapping trees on that platform, with due respect given to OpenStreetMap preferences.

Please feel free to express your thoughts here.

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I wonder whether mapping trees on OpenStreetMap is a better use of a naturalist’s time than doing so on iNat. Seeing as though OSM “observations” are not accompanied by visual proof of a tree’s presence at the given coordinates, it would be difficult to verify the legitimacy of those observations. However, trees are often large enough to be visible on satellite images, so the lack of visual evidence may not be a disadvantage for OSM observations. Can you tell me more about the process of cataloguing trees through OSM?

In terms of information that may interest naturalists and scientists alike, circumference at breast height (CBH) and accessibility come to mind. The first is simply a trunk’s circumference 130-137 cm above ground (the exact height varies by source). Here’s an article detailing the ins and outs of CBH and DBH (diameter at breast height, which I personally prefer to calculate with CBH rather than measure in the field). Accessibility is a subjective evaluation of how easy (or legal) a tree is to reach. Important factors to consider are property ownership (public or private), precarious terrain (cliffsides, shores of fast rivers, muddy swampland, etc.) and distance from nearest footpath or road. I think a scale from “Inaccessible”/“Hardly accessible” to “Easily accessible”, with intermediate values like “Fairly accessible” would be helpful there

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As a person who lives around trees, I want to learn the history of a tree’s relationship to the community. How did it get there, and when? Who planted it? Who were they? Who has cared for this tree since then? This could be captured through narratives or photographs. I can certainly imagine OSM serving as an index into such a historical archive. Alternatively, the map could establish unique identifiers for trees, to be cited in iNat observations, Instagram posts, etc.

  • The artist-engineer Cere Davis had a Web 2.0-stlye map of individual trees ~20 years ago, but I can’t find a mention of it now.
  • The Seattle Tree Inventory Map
  • I found out a strangler fig I climbed years ago in Nicaragua fell down through iNaturalist
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Sorry, I don’t have much time to elaborate, but I’m a naturalist, and also a volunteer cartographer for OpenStreetMap.
I find that these 2 projects, which I’m passionate about, are very complementary.
I’ve mapped some remarkable trees in OpenStreetMap from iNaturalist observations.
For example : https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/11043752460

I can only encourage naturalists to contribute to OpenStreetMap!
The community will be delighted to welcome them! :grinning:

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For sure that is true for the majority of trees. Cluttering up the OpenStreetMap database with lots of Callery pears, London planetrees, and Eucalyptus along streets, for example, would not be a good idea, timewise and otherwise. Adding only some of the interesting trees, due to their size, rarity, historic significance, or educational value would be best.

As to why some of the tree mapping should be contributed to OpenStreetMap, I was thinking about how to present that viewpoint just a little while ago during a walk in the woods. Then upon arriving home, I was pleased to find this:

Accordingly, the community around a college campus is a great interdisciplinary educational and research laboratory, which is true of the rest of a community as well. OpenStreetMap has great data on streets, historic landmarks, train stations, other built infrastructure, and natural features, such as bodies of water. Integrating some interesting trees into those maps offers a more complete picture of what is there. As an example, mapping a male and a female Ginkgo biloba near a school, college campus, or anywhere would be of value.

In addition to the Seattle Tree Inventory Map mentioned above, there are other mapping projects that offer a more complete tree database than what is appropriate for OpenStreetMap. Some were noted above. There is also the New York City Tree Map. But unlike those projects, OpenStreetMap integrates lots of different kinds of data onto a map, and that is why selected trees should be there as well.

OpenStreetMap does enable some some data regarding the size of the tree to be included, but perhaps more is needed.

Thanks for the Baobab!

One of the reasons for starting this discussion was to seek opinions regarding how the scientific name of a tree is stored. Note this in the original post:

    "species": "Quercus imbricaria",

If both the genus and species epithet are to be included, the convention on OpenStreetMap is to associate the entire name with the "species" key, and to omit the "genus" key. If only the genus is known, the "species" key is omitted and the "genus" key is used, which does seem appropriate. I’m not sure about the former, though, which seems to be to avoid redundancy by omitting the "genus" key. iNaturalist does enable a more elaborate system for storing scientific names than that. What are your opinions regarding how it is done on OpenStreetMap? The following may be of interest in thinking about that and the other information on OpenStreetMap associated with a mapped tree: Tag:natural=tree.

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With a little experience of mapping on OSM, I try as much as possible to add the “species:wikidata” tag :
https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:species:wikidata

With the iD editor, if you add this tag, it autocompletes by just entering the name of the species, and automatically adds the Wikidata identifier, as well as the Wikipedia link.

So all the other tag levels (genus, species:en, species:fr, etc.) are redundant.

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Another tree both in iNaturalist and OpenStreetMap :
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/194688746
https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/2627623829

On the subject of remarkable trees, I’ve just discovered the keyword “notable trees”, which I suggest you add to your observations.
This will help OSM cartographers to add these trees to the database.

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?q=notable%20trees&search_on=tags

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Thanks for all your great advice, @frontyardscientist, @rainhead, and @sylvainm_53. That will be quite helpful for making observations and mapping of some favorite trees nearby. Some of them are along the trails in the Ridge Conservation Area, which is easily accessible from here without even a car ride. In addition to the trees, there’s a pond with aquatic vegetation, turtles, frogs, insects, and waterfowl.

A walk in the woods there is a great activity for a snowy day. I’m still hoping, though, for the first snow of this winter …

Also see:

Note: I have posted a notification of this discussion on the OpenStreetMap Community Forum. This notification can be found there at:

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However, see Mapping observations of notable trees on both iNaturalist and OpenStreetMap, post 2 on the OpenStreetMap Community Forum, for some discussion in favor of a more complete mapping of trees in an area, and some links to information on some interesting street tree mapping projects.

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For those interested in this subject, I have added an “OpenStreetMap” field, which you can add to observations (trees) mapped in OpenStreetMap :
https://www.inaturalist.org/observation_fields/17260

All that’s left to do is map : :grinning:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?verifiable=any&place_id=any&field:OpenStreetMap%20(OSM)

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In the course of my explorations, I came across this project:
https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/most-photographed-trees-of-the-world
Quite a few remarkable trees to map, if they haven’t already been mapped :grinning:

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I have mapped a Black Oak (Quercus velutina) on OpenStreetMap and posted an observation of it on iNaturalist. Please see the following, and feel welcome to offer suggestions and comments:

Note the cross references within the above. The cross reference tag used on OpenStreetMap …

"ref:inaturalist": "195369620"`

… was suggested in this post on the OpenStreetMap Community Forum.

The above was also posted on the OpenStreetMap Community Forum.

Just to point out this discussion on the same subject :
https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/remarkable-monumental-trees-project
:grinning::deciduous_tree::evergreen_tree::palm_tree: