Should plants that have been transplanted to a very close location be labeled as "captive/cultivated"?

The university I attended moved to its current location 70 years ago, and there was almost no human habitation there before that. The university’s history states that some trees were moved from one part of the campus to another to make room for buildings. How should I label these trees?

For example, camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) are common native trees in the area and still exist on nearby undeveloped hills. The camphor trees on campus are mostly cultivated, while there are certainly a few of them have existed since pre-university times to this day or have been transplanted from one place to another within the campus, but they are currently managed by humans in the same way as the cultivated camphor trees. And except for a few very old trees (definitely older than the campus), I have trouble telling them apart.


Certainly an interesting scenario. In my mind, I would mark any obviously planted ones as cultivated. Signs that a tree is obviously cultivated include that there’s still evidence of the hole it was planted in, the tree appears younger than the university, or that the tree is planted in a pattern with other trees.

Other potential evidences that can’t prove it was cultivated but may help are memorial plaques and/or fake flowers placed under a tree, which I see around university campuses that put up memorial trees.

In terms of trees that are not obviously cultivated, e.g. a lone camphor tree next to a building, I would leave a note explaining the context and mark it as wild. Preemptively marking it as wild keeps someone from downgrading it instantly and forces them to reach out to you if they think it should be marked cultivated. If they have a good reason to mark it as cultivated, you can always change your vote.

I think technically the trees that were moved from one part of campus to another would be considered cultivated. However, I think it’s fairly common for volunteer native trees to grow up around campus buildings, especially early in a university’s life. Thus in my mind I couldn’t justify marking all of them as cultivated when we can’t know without speaking with one of the people who was involved with that project.


Cultivated suggests that humans have bred plants for certain characteristics, which changes the native demeanor of the plant. That’s how I see it anyhow. But that doesn’t seem to apply to your Camphor trees.

Captive may be more accurate, even though the term is better applies to animals. But the tree has been “kept” in a place that is no longer wild and it is cared for.

I also wonder about collecting native seeds and planting those in an urban area. The original (mother) plant has not been transplanted but the seed has. Does that make it captive?

On iNaturalist, cultivated and captive are synonymous and mean “not wild.” Personally, I think a lot of confusion could be delt with by making the option read “not wild.”

If you collect local native seeds and sow them, any plants that sprout are considered cultivated on iNaturalist.


If humans placed the seeds or plant in a location, it is cultivated/not wild regardless of any other characteristics. So any transplanted plants are not wild. Any trees that grew on their own prior to campus could be wild.

This is one of the examples provided in the iNat Help for captive /cultivated, so you can see more info there.


So it would be considered captive/cultivated if an area was being ‘re-wilded’ and being planted with indigenous plants that were grown from seed in a nursery?

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that’s correct


Yes, at least until the “re-wilding” is successful—that is, the original plants die and their seedlings take their place. In my mind, it’s also important to distinguish between re-wilding in terms of restoring an ecosystem vs re-wilding in terms of making a perennial garden bed with native species. Both are valid pursuits, but I think when you plant native plants in a garden bed with the intent that they come back every year, they’re cultivated unless they spread outside of the intended gardening area. For instance, my apartment’s previous tenant planted an awesome native perennial bed that included purple coneflower, orange milkweed, and common evening primrose. Each of these plants has spread by seed to other areas of the garden but has stayed inside the borders of the garden. I can’t justify marking those as wild. However, they also planted lemon balm, which has spread into the lawn, which I would mark as wild if I observed. And if the native plants do the same, I would also mark them as wild, though I probably wouldn’t bother to post observations of that.

has been re-established on Rondebosch Common. They know that - because new clumps have come up beyond where the first ones were planted.

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If the trees are where they are because somebody planted them there, they are captive/cultivated and always will be. Doesn’t matter if people moved them to be part of a garden or part of a “rewilding” effort.

Of course, knowing which trees were planted and which were there all along can be difficult. If I really can’t tell, I usually give the trees the benefit of the doubt, so to speak, and mark them wild.

For plants with shorter generation time, there’s the additional issue that the original plants have produced seeds that grew into additional plants that count as wild. So I generally mark the observation wild, though I can’t be sure if the plant I photo’d is one of the first, planted generation or is from a later, wild one.