Seek: Highlight/sort native plants in My Observations

As someone turned on to plant ID by Seek/iNaturalist in the last year, I am particularly interested in identifying plants that are native and letting them grow in my yard or acquiring them appropriately. It would be really helpful to be able to quickly look back at my past observations for these plants, for example when talking to other people or when I am planning replacement of introduced species. (I seem to have a good eye/visual memory, but a horrible memory for names!) Having a sort feature or special icon in the My Observations list would be really helpful to people like me, who, I am sure, are a major target for the Seek app builders!

Related to this, I would also love to be able to quickly find observations that I made near where I am (especially my home). But that might be more of a import to iNaturalist feature for a Seek users FAQ. (I have both apps and haven’t fully explored bringing over observations.)

I think that this has been requested as a feature in the past. I recall a request asking for this and filtering by introduced as well.

One of the challenges is that iNat doesn’t automatically assign native/introduced status to species, the site users have to do that, so any filtering applied will result in an inaccurate count.

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To be clear, this feature request is for the Seek phone app. The request fits in with the educational focus of that app.

Seek currently applies certain labels (Native, Introduced, Threatened, and/or Endemic) on the observation page under the organism names. I find this enormously helpful and is the main thing I am often wondering about a plant I encounter. This use of the app of could be extended/furthered/promoted with an icon (N?) in the My Observations list.

An alternative way to promote understaning of native ecology would be to highlight natives on the “Species Nearby” list on the Seek home page. Native species could be a default tag/interactive element under those currently available. If the user touches the element, it could open a page with explanation of what Native means and an element to turn off the filter and include other species. (Comments on another requests pointed out the danger of misidentifying native species as “Non-native” or “Introduced,” leading to ecological damage by well-meaning “weed warriors.” By identifying native, as opposed to Introduced or Invasive species, Seek could avoid this misuse of the app and encourage further education.)

For my own use case, I see that I can import previous pictures into iNaturalist from the phone"s photo library and tag them for future sorting and reference in the desktop app. It would be helpful to add a note about the tag and search features available in the desktop app to the two bullets about what users can do in iNaturalist: “Use the iNaturalist desktop app to tag observations and store them for future reference. The desktop app provides a variety of ways to search your observations–and those others have made-- by place, date, description and other categories”


I may be wrong, but I think Seek uses the iNat dataset, so it’s subject to the same issues with accurate and complete labeling of Introduced, Native, Endemic, and conservation status issues etc as iNat is.

I agree that it would be a useful feature for both apps, but I think it would take a dedicated effort to go through the species list and properly assign the relevant categories.

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I agree that would be a nice utility to have. Perhaps make this a feature request, if there is not one already?

Meanwhile, check out illustrated native plant lists for Maryland:

One by county:

The taxa are definitely identified using iNat database according to the app itself. My guess is that Seek checks the USDA’s plant database (and/or other) for these labels after the taxa has been identified through the iNat database. Obviously the developers know, but I share this FYI in case it encourages the vote on this feature request:

Most of the plants I pull up on Seek are labeled Native or Introduced–approximately 160 out of 180 of my Seek observations get one or the other label in Seek.

I say approximately, because it sometimes takes 5 seconds or more for the label to appear on the app and sometimes I’ll return to an entry that doesn’t have a label but I happen to know is native, and it is labeled. Both the delay and occasional failure to match suggest to me there is a matching ID process with another database.

Of the ones that aren’t labeled native or introduced, I have found many are ambiguous or misidentified through my own photo comparison. Often they have Wikipedia entries describing ranges outside of the US. Some of the ones that are unlabeled have a look-alike/relative in the US that is identified by the app as native in a different photo of the plant I have taken in the same area. This is the basis of my suspicion that Seek .checks the USDA database–which goes down to the county level for many species–for these labels.

Interestingly, I notice common garden herbs (Lavender, Rosemary etc.) are not labeled Native or Introduced by the Seek app. (I also learned through Seek that the Venus Flytrap is threatened, endemic and native in North Carolina when I visited a botanic garden there last weekend!)

In order for it status labels be used elsewhere as I have suggested, without slowing the app, the data might have to be less dynamically connected/fetched. But I doubt it changes that frequently to matter. There definitely does NOT need to be an effort to label when that research has already been done for most species, at least in the US. (As I write this lack of similar databases globaly could be a constraint to more prominently using native plant labels in either app.)

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Welcome to the forum, ddweis! Remember to vote for your own feature request. :)

A related feature for the web interface can be found here: Search for native taxa in the user interface - Feature Requests - iNaturalist Community Forum

For both platforms, being able to filter to just native species would be useful. Currently, on the website, one can filter to introduced species. I don’t use Seek, so I don’t know if that’s an option there.

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Thanks teelbee. This is a feature request, and you can show support by voting for it at the top left of this page !