Mission: Impossible - Identify Plantae in Africa

I’m down


970,608 needs ID observations for iconic taxon Plantae in Africa. Is there any particular focus with that?


I like this. I’ll give it a shot.


hey, why not. normally I’m IDing in the Middle East but something fresh might be nice.


Working on that. I have 10 - but needs some editing.

  1. Languages. We communicate with the default common language of English. For the observer a (colonial European) language may be their second, or even third or more, language.

The Conversation in Africa article - changing language in high school.

Common names in Botswana

(If you are a taxon specialist - put that info on your profile for us?)

We also deal with low, no, or erratic internet connection. And power supply (loadshedding from 1200 to 1400 today).

Start here and light up Darkest Africa (replace my name with yours)


Re African garden plants, I think they should be in there too, but I’d like them to be from gardens on the actual continent for this challenge. They might even be from the same gardens students will visit during the Great Southern Bioblitz, so that could help us prepare.


this may be helpful


It would exclude the last 3 months. @tonyrebelo for example appreciates a grace period for his uniDed observations. So we’re focusing on the big pile of older stuff.

[7/31 update: Tony has advised that for the challenge it should be OK without the date cutoff after all! Urls will be simpler that way, and there will be less focus on newer obs anyway, if challenge links are set to random sort mode. For reference, a grace exclusion string would have been this url chunk: &created_d2=2023-05-01&createdDateType=range ]

Speaking of Tony, he’s kind of my “muse” for this challenge! In comments on an iNat blog post (around here), Tony lays out the impossibility of the mission.

Can we get more “difficult dicots,” or even easy dicots, to family without dragging them through all the coarse stages first? Or can we at least train more identifiers to do that in the future? Can we learn to use the useful African CV suggestions while learning how to avoid the misleading ones? Can we make Tony’s pile of Unknowns and coarsely id’ed obs a bit smaller- getting them to family and farther- without annoying Tony too much? Can we disprove Tony’s premise that incremental plant id’ing is just useless, or find out he is right after all? Lol, these are some of my own focus goals.


Even though I have no clue about african plants, I might join if somebody points me to a few guides - although I will spend most of August collecting new Plant unknowns on my trip to South Africa ;) But could be good practice…


maybe, maybe not, but at least I can learn something from the experience as finer IDs are added. there’s a few things from there I know how to take down to Order/Family/Genus etc, but only because Africa has many desert / xeric plants. it’s more of a… semi-educated guess.
IMO any improvement is good improvement. I’m skeptical we’d even manage to get through 99% of Unknowns in the region…

FWIW I’d be happy to be tagged on anything that’s thorny or cactus-ey. First off, I just like them, and there’s a marginally higher chance than usual I can contribute something useful.


I know 2 of those authors are active on iNat
https://www.inaturalist.org/people/891430 koekemoerm for Asteraceae


Especially in South Africa, there are several misidentified plant species ( eg. plants that are native to Mexico that not known to be cultivated) Maybe someone more resistant to snarky comments than I could take some time to fix them.


@mention me next time you are snarked at for South African obs.
I will find someone kinder on my list.


If you prepare a straightforward guide on how to distinguish which species are mis-IDed, I’m certain a couple of people could make short work of it. If they can’t get it to the correct ID, at least they can pull it out of RG if it’s wrong.

  1. Placeholder. If you are used to a location where someone will sweep thru your ‘planty’ IDs - remember that broad planty IDs in Africa, may again languish for years, just as they did in Unknown.
    Open each obs in the pop-up to check for notes or - oops what did that vanished placeholder say!? Observers can be booby trapped by iNat into packing a lot of info into that (TEMPORARY) placeholder.

(0 was language in my comment I am ‘replying’ to)

I have battled that ‘temporary’ placeholder since November 2022 at least

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A pdf quick guide with some photos is up on researchgate (not the whole book)


There is also a copy on archive.org


Back to April 2022 - bit over a year
African (from @bobmcd 's Low Growth project so excluding South Africa) plants at family. Then it was 35K.

Today it is 64K. Almost doubled in a year. Very good that there are more obs.
Hugely looking forward to seeing some of my bookmarked icebergs shrink a little.


That should probably be part of the mission training (aka upcoming noob faq, probably in this thread)- in some “stuff you should care about or at least pay attention to” section. Glancing at more than just the first photo if there’s more than one is another part.

Re observing changes, that’s probably the best way to measure progress over the course of the challenge, in a way where we can see whether we are winning as a team, rather than focusing more on individuals in leaderboards. (Although that’s fun too! We could come up with competitive categories.)

If we take snapshots of the umbrella project’s taxa breakdown in the form of a colored pie chart every n days of the challenge, we can look at how the overall identification process is going over the course of the challenge. Which pie slices are getting bigger or smaller? If some of them do change, will we think the changes mean anything by the end? I hope we’ll find out something interesting about our ID work.


Oh, yes! How many times have I left the comment about an observation with several different species, only to get a notification the next day that someone IDed it as the species in the first picture?