Mission: Impossible - Identify Plantae in Africa

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?


UPDATE - if this sounds like too much work @ mention me in a comment - with the placeholder. I love ‘adding’ new species to the gaps on the map.

  1. Missing species. Again - check notes and placeholder for missing species. If the name seems plausible, use Google to check for forgiveness for tiny typos (iNat is uncompromising for even one letter missing or superfluous to requirements) iNat uses POWO so find that LINK to make life easy for curators.
    Random example which I hope to see in the next CV update (the ultimate reward for helping those missing species)
    Go to the available broader taxon. Add that broader ID. Comment - Flagged for missing species. Flag … wait. If the 24/7 is right sometimes it is added immediately, thanks to active curators.
    I don’t add common names, I defer to local and language people.

(1 was Placeholder)


Watching the changes sounds fascinating. I hope there are changes, in fact; it would quite discouraging if nothing much changes after, say, six months of concentrated work.

In addition to providing the kind of helpful information noted above to identifiers who are new to working on Africa or indeed new to IDing, I’ve found that one of the useful tips I’ve provided to IDers is simply the use of filters. During the annual New England plant ID-a-thon weekends I’ve organized, several IDers have commented to me that learning to use filters has really made IDing feel more rewarding.

For example, if someone filters for Needs ID easy-to-ID African plant species X, they can run through those dozen or hundreds of observations very quickly, and the result is quite a few observations moved out of Needs ID. Sounds obvious, but if someone has never done it before, it’s a miracle.

  1. Multiple species. If there is more than 1 photo, check carefully - all the same species??
    If not. ID as life - leave your copypasta to split please. DQA to ‘good as it can be’ to push it to Casual and out of Needs ID, once a second ‘Life’ is added (as a courtesy to our small team of identifiers). ‘25% of IDs are made by 130 users’
    Again - I am not conforming to iNat guidelines, which say - use the broadest ID that fits. Then watch people ID that ONE picture! Leaving irritating WRONG among the taxon pictures.
    Often the observer has gone, dormant. That obs will languish forever.

(2 was Missing species)


I love that paper you linked.

  1. Combine multiple obs of one individual. This avoids unnecessary work for identifiers. Flower. Leaf detail. Fruit. Bark. Each on a separate obs makes those IDs all difficult. Combined the ID may be blindingly obvious! Add your ID to the photo with most info. ID the duplicates as Life - with your copypasta for - ‘duplicate of (link to chosen obs) and please combine photos of one individual’. Again DQA to push the duplicates to Casual. Again my workflow, not the iNat guidelines.

(3 was the other way multiple species in one obs)

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Although I have seen this done on observations of one individual by two different observers. Incidentally, there is an observation field for that: Observation field: Same specimen, different observer · iNaturalist

  1. @mention thoughtfully. Busy scientists - is it worth their time, before you ask. Good clear pictures with adequate info. Build up a list of various people to ask, to spread the load. Your chosen taxon specialist needs to be both active and competent. If we can pick out the good stuff for them to concentrate on, win win.

(4 was multiple obs for That One)


I just created a bare-bones draft collection project to follow identification progress: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/mission-impossible-identify-plantae-in-africa
[edit 7/30: this one was removed and a tradition project now carries the name. We’ll use Flora of Africa project for tracking progress]

It currently has all observations currently in Kingdom Plantae in Africa; from whenever up to May 1, 2023; at all of Research, Needs ID and Casual grades.

Main issues for further setup:

  • Is there a way to limit the Casual setting to Captive only?
  • Is there a way to get Unknowns into the project as well (Unknowns are mostly Plantae too)?
  • If we can’t get all Unknowns into this project, is there a way to at least get @jeanphilippeb 's relevant Unknown project contents into this?

If anyone wants to be an admin on this project OR on the forthcoming education-oriented companion traditional project (perhaps to be able to give journal updates from which to @ relevant expertise, or organize tips?), let me know and I can add you.


hmm you can put me in a list for people to ask about more basic stuff I guess


DQA with what?

I believe you can display unknowns/life and plants together in a collection project by telling the project to exclude all kingdoms other than Plantae (you’ll have to list them out.) When @bobmcd tried something similar for his project he found he was also collecting a lot of random ungrafted taxa. And keep in mind collection projects are in truth a fancy way to display certain search filters; observations are not “caught inside” collection projects, and therefore your unknowns will leave the project when they cease meeting your criteria (aka when identified as something which isn’t a plant.) For @jeanphilippeb 's unknown projects, he used a script to add all the observations to traditional project, and that’s why they stay in there even after they get identified.


DQA - Good as it can be.
Second ID to Life will push the obs to Casual.
Till the observer returns to sort out the problems. If they return.

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