Plant disease names vs plant pathogen names - they are two different things!

I was supporting your position. I’ll edit my post to clarify.


Calling it the white nose syndrome fungus would be, though. Just like we can refer to monkeypox virus even if we have the virus under a microscope and no case of the disease.

1 Like

This seems totally fine to me.

EDIT: Sorry, I quoted the wrong thing. I think “Beech Bark Canker Fungus” is fine. But you shouldn’t add characters like brackets to common names.


In cases where the disease is reliably caused by a single organism, I think it’s perfectly fine to have the common name be that of the disease rather than the pathogen itself - the pathogen name generally won’t be familiar to non-scientists, and the disease symptoms will be the way most people know it. Messy, but quite workable.

The issue, of course, becomes evident when there are more than one species capable of causing the same “disease”, or when the disease-causing species can also exist without causing disease symptoms.

In the case @abiggs2 references, it’s complicated by the fact that the cankers only occur when two different organisms are present at the same time. The fungus is widespread, but doesn’t become an issue for trees unless they are attacked by scale insects. Assuming there are no other fungi that regularly cause cankers on beeches, “Beech Bark Canker Fungus” would probably be an acceptable name.

I guess it really comes down to layman accessibility versus strict accuracy - one or the other is going to have to budge. There are a lot of other resources out there for people with a deeper understanding of science, who aren’t intimidated by latin names, so my personal opinion is that iNat should lean slightly more towards the accessibility side in cases like this.


I took the liberty to edit the name by adding fungus. Seems a good compromise since I haven’t run across any other common name for the fungus. The only other option would be remove the common name altogether–and then someone would promptly add one back in.

1 Like

“In my experience, as a mycologist, plant pathologists use common names for organism and the associated symptoms interchangeably.”

I’m sorry that that has been your experience. As a plant pathologist, we were taught (at Penn State) to be constantly aware that the disease and the causal organism are not interchangeable. With the beech bark canker post that I initiated this thread with, there are good photos of the disease as well as good photos of the pathogen. If we strive for accuracy here, then the OP could have made two separate posts. One with the disease and one with the pathogen.

Yes, to clarify (I hope), I don’t believe that one should ID a disease as a pathogen. The latter is an organism whereas the former is the result of the interaction between the organism and its host. I appreciate disease photos as much as anyone, and I would like to see them categorized here as such. When one can ID the pathogen, then the proper naming convention for the causal organism should be used.

I think that is fine, as well; so long as we can ID Beech Bark Canker AND Beech Bark Canker Fungus in separate posts.

I don’t think that’s doable on iNat. The thing being identified has to be an organism that falls within the taxonomic hierarchy that the site uses. Identifying a disease on iNat (as a separate thing from the pathogen) doesn’t fit that requirement.


The disease (as a condition) will not be eligible for an observation on iNaturalist. Each observation on iNat needs to be of a specific taxon. So the observation could either be for the host or the pathogen, but not the disease as such. Information on the disease could be added to either an observation of the host or pathogen.


The disease is evidence of the organism in the way that a track or scat or a beaver-chewed tree is evidence of an organism.


Disease is a sign of organism, it’s not a separate entity, it can be cause by different taxa, that’s why we can id it only at higher level sometimes, but there’s no need or way to id the visible signs as something different from the organism, it’s like iding galls as something different from the insect/mite that caused them, it’s not helpful and doesn’t make much sense.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.