Request for better description of "cultivated/captive"

On the help page, I think the FAQ #18. regarding “captive/cultivated” could be improved.

The current definition of “captive/cultivated” emphasizes the intent fo the organism being observed: “wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because they intended to do so.”

I find the idea of plants and animals having intent to be in a particular place… well a bit funny. Imagine snapping a photo of sparrow in the clutches of a falcon. Can I submit the photo of the sparrow, or just the falcon. Maybe if I could read the sparrows mind he would be totally zen about it, “sigh… I guess this is ultimately what I wanted.”

Same goes for dead organisms, plants that dispersed via the wind, tropical fish that wash up on temperate beaches, etc. Hard to see that there is intent there. In short, I think the FAQ is right to emphasize human intent part but not the organism’s intent.

I realize I’m nitpicking a bit but I think there is some confusion–especially among new users–about what counts as “captive/cultivated”. Wouldn’t hurt to update this part of the FAQ with more examples.


There is confusion amongst the entire community, I think. Everyone can agree on the ends of the spectrum, but being a binary choice there is always going to be a middle ground where people differ.

I personally would like to see it become a 3 state value, but with only the two states selectable.

If everyone chooses wild, it’s wild. And if everyone chooses cultivated, then it’s cultivated. The third state would be determined by there being dissention in the DQA votes, ie if half say wild and half say cultivated, then it is “gray area” (we would need a name for this third state!). We could have it so that 90% is the threshold for wild or cultivated, to eliminate the problematic unresponsive (I’ll stop short of malicious) votes.

I just can’t help thinking that allowing for a gray area middle ground would eliminate the majority of the problems and discussions around this aspect of the site.


I do agree, it could do with correction. As an interesting side-note, there are ant species that cultivate fungi. Both species, though, would be submittable as wild by. The intended point is understood to be that the organisms came to that area (or near enough to that area) without human intention.

I can add a revision over the weekend unless someone beats me to it. Here would be my proposed changes to this section to better explain this:

… Likewise, wild / naturalized organisms exist in particular times and places because *they* intended to do so (or because of intention by another wild organism).

Captive / cultivated

° butterfly mounted in a display case and not appropriately marked with date and location of original collection

Wild / naturalized

° humans (though one could argue that children in school and adults at work are often not where they would intend to be themselves) (these automatically get marked casual anyway, so I don't see how this is a useful note)

° [add] a bird caught by your pet cat (presuming the bird isn't also a pet)
° [add] living organisms dispersed by the wind and other forces

I’d think dead organisms under transport would fall outside of the wild/captive question and fall under accuracy of location and/or recency of evidence. Is the specimen found at or near the site of death, or is transport enough that this really may not be near where it lived? I also add recency mainly to deal with fossils or organisms not representative of recent ecology.

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I have confusion of this as well. My question regarding plants. If I didn’t plant it and it has sprouted in my yard, is it automatically wild or captive? As an example, I have an Amorphophallus that volunteered itself in my yard. Certainly not native to my area, but I didn’t plant it.

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I have the same question.

I think this is one of the “gray areas”. I think if you’re in doubt you should probably tag it captive/cultivated.

Once it really starts spreading on its own beyond your yard I’d lean towards calling it wild. But I don’t know where we should draw the line between captive/cultivated and wild plants. Certainly there are a lot of plants that fall somewhere in between.

Wild. As long as no member of Homo sapiens planted the plant, the plant is wild by iNaturalist definitions as I understand them. You noted that you did not plant the plant, the plant “volunteered itself” into your yard. Whether a plant species was introduced to a location by people in the past is a botanic question and is not the defining characteristic of wild in iNaturalist, not as far as I understand iNaturalist’s wild. Sphagneticola trilobata was brought to the island I live on circa 1970. The plant rapidly went invasive and is now a self-sustaining population. The plants are all wild, no one since the early 1970s has intentionally planted Sphagneticola trilobata. See also the lengthy but worthy topic The category of “cultivated” is problematic for plants in urban landscapes and the help page examples - the improvement of which is the request made in this topic.

So if a lake is stocked yearly with fish, but the fish also repopulate on their own, would it be considered wild or cultivated.

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Good question!

There’s actually a thread discussion of this here:

It would be worth someone compiling all the questionable cases that people have brought up into one big list.

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