Should pocket prairie plants be considered wild?

I’m interested in opinions on the question in the title. Personally, I prefer to mark plants as cultivated after they are introduced to an isolated patch of land, even if they continue to self-propagate indefinitely. My yard is such a case. I’ve introduced many native plants over the years and some continue to exist after years and are well established, but would not naturally occur here. For example, while I only grow natives to the Greater Houston area, some plants would have not occurred naturally at my location (30 miles away, yes). If I make observations of such plants, I mark them as cultivated. Lots of other people observing obviously introduced plants do mark them as cultivated. To me, it really messes up the distribution maps. Opinions?

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The captive/cultivated guidelines encompass this situation fairly well:


  • poppy in a garden
  • tree planted 1, 10, or 100 years ago by humans
  • plants that grew from seeds that were planted in the ground or scattered


  • weed or other unintended plant growing in a garden
  • garden plant that is reproducing on its own and spreading outside of the intended gardening area
  • a species that had been introduced to a new region and has established a population outside of human care

If it’s the same plant as you planted, it’s cultivated, if it’s a new seedling, it’s wild (considering your yard is existing as a wild patch now and not like kailyard). Introduced or not it doesn’t matter, if you planted a thing that’s growing everywhere around it’s still a cultivated one.


After these prairie plantings exist for a few years, lots of the plants present will be seedlings from the original plantings, which would be wild. This makes it impossible to say for sure the status of any given plant. For plantings that have been present for many years, I think it is safe to assume any plant present is wild. Even if the individual in the photo isn’t wild, another individual of the same species at the site almost certainly is.

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I would not consider any new seedling automatically as wild. After all, the help section states “Wild: garden plant that is reproducing on its own and spreading outside of the intended gardening area”. So, if you have a confined area (like a flower bed) and the plants stay in that area, I would still mark them as cultivated, even if they are offspring and not the same individuals that were originally planted (at least assuming that the garden is maintained and the offspring is intended by the gardener).


It has been discussed many times that garden volunteers, including those seeded from planted plants, count as wild. In relation to these specific situations though, few if any of these prairie plantings get much maintenance after planting, beyond occasional brush removal or burns. These plants are, for all intents and purposes, living “wild”.


GoBotany uses the epithets Native and Introduced. This is a better means to look at a species over time, as here in New England we only have >18K years of natives, since the last glacier left. Anything brought in by European settlers (and later) is Introduced, and some of these became naturalized (spread into the wild without help) and sometimes invasive. Species introduced by “native” Americans (Indian tribes), who earlier had migrated to the area, were swept into the native category.
The iNat epithets of Wild and Cultivated are merely useful observation locations, not conferring a genetic pedigree. For me, something observed in a natural area without human intervention is Wild, while something in close proximity to where it was purposefully planted is Cultivated. Although it’s still offensive to me to call something naturalized Wild, I remind myself that finding something in the wild doesn’t make it Native.
Then we get into the issue of “nativars”: cultivars of native plants. They are Cultivated (usually clones), alas; so the source or manner of restoring the pocket prairie plants is an issue.
I hope the understanding that some native plants can be cultivated makes the choice easier…

I’d add that if the plants are surviving only because you are tending them (watering, removing competitors, or cutting your pocket prairie at certain times of year specifically to encourage these species, etc.) I would mark as cultivated. If they spread beyond where you are specifically managing for them, then wild. This is consistent with the wording of “unintended” and “intended gardening area”.

@KrisAtkinsonf iNaturalist has this too, under Status - Establishment Means. Introduced species are marked with a pink “!” symbol - see below for example. This is independent of whether they are marked cultivated or wild.


native vs introduced is very different from wild versus cultivated/planted. Something can be native and planted, introduced and wild, etc. Both are important pieces of information.

I agree with others, if it is seeding naturally and spreading/persisting, it’s generally considered wild. I suppose plants self seeding into the same garden bed are an edge case and you might choose to mark them cultivated. There’s no way to designate a population that originates from plantings vs not, but you could make a field to track that data.


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