I’ve looked around the forum and couldn’t find this in the suggestions yet, so here’s a thread for discussion/votes:
Currently there is only one big catch-all category for Plantae, whereas there are several iconic taxa to cover animals. I suggest to split Plantae into several iconic taxa as well, or split out the most recognizable taxa with a catch-all “other plants” like there is an “other animals” category. I can see two possible options:
Option 1: Split all the land plants (embryophytes) into their four categories: 1) angiosperms, 2) gymnosperms, 3) seedless vascular plants, and 4) bryophytes.
This would likely be the option favored by botanists, but there may be possible issues with this:
- Due to the nested nature of the taxa in the plant kingdom, the only one of these taxa that currently exists on iNat is Subphylum Angiospermae. The other groups would have to be created as paraphyletic taxa. Gymnosperms would encompass the classes Cycadopsida, Ginkgoopsida, Gnetopsida, and Pinopsida. Seedless vascular plants would consist of classes Lycopodiopsida and Polypodopsida, and the Bryophytes would be phyla Anthocerotophyta, Bryophyta, and Marchantiophyta.
- There would be four phyla falling through the cracks that are currently part of Plantae but not covered in the four groups of land plants: Charophyta, Chlorophyta, Glaucophyta, and Rhodophyta. Should they be their own taxon then, and what to call it? These are all algae, but not all algae fall into this group (other algae are included in Chromista and Protozoa).
Option 2: Split out the most recognizable groups of plants that could be represented with icons and leave the rest in a catch-all “other plants” category.
This would be similar to how the most recognizable animal groups are separate iconic taxa, with a catch-all “other animals” for the rest. Which taxa to split out? I think the most logical ones would be: Subphylum Angiospermae (flowering plants), Class Pinopsida (conifers), Class Polypodiopsida (ferns), and Phylum Bryophyta (mosses). The rest, including the green and red algae etc., would be left in an “other plants” category.
How would this improve iNat? I can see two obvious places where this could have an impact, but there are probably more.
- Being able to choose more specific plant categories in Identify would help break up the large “Plantae” group into subgroups. Option 1 listed above might be particularly attractive here since several of those taxa (e.g. gymnosperms, bryophytes) don’t currently exist on iNat. Having them available as iconic taxa would make it a lot more straight-forward to target them specifically for identifications.
- The species break-down on project stats pages would become a lot more informative by showing several plant categories. This would be particularly attractive for projects limited to plants only, which currently just show a circle with the same green color all the way around.
What could this look like? I’ve spent some time thinking about possible icons for the different plant categories. I think the most logical choices (because easily recognizable by most people) would be a flower for angiosperms and a pine cone for gymnosperms. For ferns/seedless vascular plants, I think a fiddlehead is a good option. A lot of people are probably familiar with fern fiddleheads. For the mosses/bryophytes, a moss plant with sporophyte might work. Here are some examples I came up with for possible icons - there may be better design options so feel free to comment/discuss/suggest the most recognizable plant icons.
Here’s a mock-up of what the Identify page could look like with these:
(Note: There were some empty squares in the layout, so I filled them in with possible icons for bacteria, archaea, and viruses but there is another feature request already for those. There is also a feature request for additional animal taxa. Chromista don’t have an icon yet either, so there are multiple options to fill empty slots.)
For color representations of the additional plant taxa, I think it would make the most sense to use different shades of green. Here’s a mock-up what a project stats page could look like: