People making wrong suggestions

More than once, I’ve seen a plant observation that features a sign and the observation uses the same ID as the sign, only for the sign to be wrong and the observer doesn’t believe me. The possible reasons include 1) incorrect from the beginning, 2) original plant died, and 3) taxonomic changes.


Oh, there are plenty of misleading signs out there. The most common issue I see along nature trails is that the plant has disappeared and new ones have grown in its place. The stick-in-the-ground types at botanical gardens may have gotten blown over by the wind or pulled out for weeding or other maintenance and put back with the wrong plants etc. Or the signed plant may simply be dormant and the observation is for the weeds that came up during its off-season. Signage is a good clue, but not the ultimate proof of ID.

As for the original question, if you think an ID is incorrect, you can counter it with what you think is the correct ID. If it is on your own observation and you think the ID is nonsense, you can reject the community ID to keep your own ID. If the community thinks your ID is wrong though, this may end up with your observation being made casual.

But as others have said, one thing to always consider is that maybe it is your ID that is wrong. I’ve had this plenty of times where I was certain I had the correct ID only for someone to come along and put a different species that I didn’t even know existed because it is not in any of my field guides. If you go by CV suggestions, it happens even more often because not all species are recognized by the CV, only the most commonly observed ones. I view these disagreements as great learning opportunities. If no explanation is offered, I will ask the identifier. Most people are happy to explain and I’ve learned a few ID tricks that way.

As for identifiers getting reprimanded for their efforts, yes that has happened to me, too. I was once told off for adding IDs to poor quality observations (obviously the work of a school project of some sort) that “don’t deserve to be rewarded with IDs” according to the comments I got. I’ve been told to delete IDs when I put them on duplicates. I choose to ignore such comments for the most part.

I try not to rely on CV suggestions when identifying but sometimes I will make IDs based on that e.g. when going through older unknowns or trying to resolve high level ID conflict, assuming that CV has improved over time and is now making better suggestions than say 5 years ago and having some ID is better than leaving things Unknown or at Life. I try to verify with other sources when it would results in the ID becoming research grade, because I think that should require a bit more than just checking the CV, and for the same reason I would not follow up an initial CV-suggested ID with another CV suggestion.


Also realize that there is a lot of neurodiversity here on iNaturalist. What may come across as rude may not have been intended to be that way at all.


Yes but that goes both ways and we all need to foster kindness and listen to others (yeah i recognize i don’t always do a good job either but i am trying). I am autistic and I use iNat a lot less than i used to because of how i was treated by some people. I don’t know of their neurostatus but either way, they were pretty awful to me and i wasn’t able to get support from the system on dealing with it nor given an extra block, so i kinda have faded out and just don’t do IDs for others any more unless it’s my friends.


" But when I checked your observations, I saw a disagreement with your ID and the #1 and #3 identifiers for that Genus. The big identifiers on here know a lot."
yes, I know. I had no idea who they were, but this isn’t about that one. The problem observations were deleted. I am new to this even though I signed up a while back.

BTW I am also in the neurodivergent spectrum. Information for those who mentioned it.

I believe I understand how to deal with this a little bit better now.

It would however, be helpful if when suggesting a different ID, people would explain why they believe it is “this vs that”.

Thanks everyone.


This topic comes up periodically. Here are a few links to previous discussions where IDers have written about why they don’t always include comments when disagreeing:

The short answer is: in an ideal world, yes, people would include comments when they disagree with an ID. But time is short and there aren’t enough IDers for most taxa, so people often prioritize IDing over typing comments for observers who may not read or care about the comment anyway.

If you want to know more about why someone made an ID, it is always OK to ask – most IDers are happy to provide an explanation if the user expresses an interest.


I second @spiphany ! If you want to know, please ask. Like many identifiers, I long ago gave up explaining most changes (unless I have a copy/paste response handy). It feels like throwing rocks in the ocean – the comments usually have no effect, get no response. I have no reason to believe that anyone notices the change or cares about it if they do. I’m very, very happy when people ask! (Someone cares!) If you want to know, please ask. I’ll be glad to explain. And sometimes, I will learn that I was wrong. That’s useful, too.

If asking is hard for you, you might try to think of iNaturalist as a pretty low-stress place to practice asking, which is a useful skill.


I’ve seen a bunch of them, they just rubber stamp observations so they can get more IDs and see their avatar listed; if the previous ID is wrong, who cares, pile on and get those numbers up.

Ugh, I am plagued by one such person. Months ago I asked him to stop IDing my observations, and he did for a while, but now he’s back. I wouldn’t care except his IDs have resulted in a lot of “Research Grade” observations when I didn’t ID to species level bc I wasn’t sure myself & there’s only one species-level ID besides my plaguey IDer’s.

If it’s just one person, you can consider blocking them (account settings – relationships). That way they won’t be able to see or interact with your observations.


If someone’s adding a lot of bad data to iNat and not responding to feedback, please let know. This can be grounds for suspension, see

Any account that adds content we believe decreases the accuracy of iNaturalist data may be suspended, particularly if that account behaves like a machine, e.g. adds a lot of content very quickly and does not respond to comments and messages.


I agree that calling a broader, correct ID a “maverick” doesn’t set well with me. The ID is not in error at all. A different genus - of course, but the right genus??? These do not seem to be in the same category.

Interestingly, when someone IDs to subspecies, and I ID only to species, my ID can put the observation into “Research Grade”. Seems to me to be a dis-connect here. Why is my broader ID in this case, not a “Maverick” also?

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The situation above is one where the genus ends up being different due to a taxon change (and therefore it is now an incorrect genus).

If a user IDs as the currently correct genus as a broader ID or if other users later ID to a finer species ID within that genus, the original genus ID wouldn’t be a maverick.


Thank you for responding.

Well I can’t locate my generic ID I was referencing, but at least at the time - certainly this month, - the genus I used, and the species added later were both in the same genus. So this must be a taxonomic change that just happened. If the species name was updated, why would not the generic name also be updated?

I.e. If I IDed the genus as Xus, another person later ID the observation as Xus smithi, then the taxonomic change resulted in Yus smithi, should not my generic ID also be changed from Xus to Yus, and thus not be a “maverick”? Seems a little inconsistent, but if that is how taxonomic changes are handled, then so be it. Just a bit curious.

Thanks again,

Tony Futcher

You could end up with a disagreeing ID if only one species was moved out of the genus. For example, if you ID as Physalis, and then I ID as Physalis carpenteri and then a taxon change moves mine to Calliphysalis carpenteri, there are still 90+ species in the genus Physalis, and your ID is left there, so now we have disagreement.


It depends on the number of affected observations. There are different options to curate taxonomic changes as described in

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Not if it was a case of splitting the genus, i.e. the genus Xus still exists, but that species was moved to the newly erected genus Yus.


What about when a “top identifier” is wrong?

Talk to them. Let them know.


Mistakes happen to the best of us. This is why iNat requires more than one ID for an observation to be labelled “research grade”.

One wrong ID is not a problem – you just need 2 more IDs to get a 2/3 + 1 majority and the community taxon will follow the majority ID. For most taxa, this is self-correcting because there are enough IDers to override the wrong ID.

If you think an ID is wrong, you can tag the IDer to ask about their ID; if they agree that it was a mistake, they will change or withdraw their ID. You can also see what other IDers suggest (if it’s a recent observation, usually waiting a few days is sufficient; if it is more than a few months old sometimes it makes sense to tag people).


I think I’m a top identifier for a few plant species, but I certainly make mistakes and I want to know about them when I do. I’ll echo the advice to talk to the identifier - make a comment or even send them a private message - say something like, “I was thinking this is Species A because of the hairy leaves/six petals/whatever. Could you please tell me why you think this is Species B? Thanks!” In other words, something polite and inquisitive, not accusatory. I hope this helps.