The New Plant Annotations - Better for inexperienced users to avoid?

I really like the new annotations and believe if used correctly, they will enhance iNat’s usefulness to researchers.

My problem with using them myself is that I am not at all experienced in determining plant structure/parts. I’m not always sure if a bud is a flower bud or a budding leaf. Also not sure about seed structures and seeds.

The problem: Say, for example, I annotate a plant observation with Flowers and Green Leaves present, but there are also flower buds and seeds present. My annotations will prevent finding this observation if a search is made for plants without annotations. So, it will be incomplete and not as useful as if I left it alone for an experienced plant IDer to find.

Question: Would it be better if I avoid making plant annotations or add potentially incomplete ones?

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One can make a search for absence of specific annotation. So someone could search for those without an annotation for seeds. In that case ones with only an annotation for flowers would show up in the results. I’ve been annotating a lot wildflowers since I’m working on a project to predict which species in my local area with be blooming each month. I skip IDing seeds when I’m not certain. I figure it is better than annotating incorrectly. I still annotate flowers/buds on those observations.

If you don’t feel you can distinguish plant features, there are lots of annotations needed that are easier to do. Such as annotating a moth/butterfly as adult and their caterpillars as larva.


I’m not sure you actually can. Maybe it works with some kind of URL manipulation, but I’m not aware of a way. The UI is a bit deceiving in this use case. You can search in identify for an observation without the “Leaves” annotation. But if you try to choose a value, it does not stick or update the numbers queried.

You can see the relevant thread here:

Annotate what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t. If it has flowers, annotate for flowers. If it has buds but you can’t tell and therefore don’t annotate, that’s only a small loss. If you can’t tell if those structures are buds or fruits (a common problem with grasses), don’t annotate that. Move on to the next one. Your help is needed on so many other observations!


I learned a new thing by more fully reading that linked thread. You actually can search for what @lappelbaum is saying. You just have to select “With annotation = X”, but with no value, and “Without annotation” without an option, but select the value you want to filter out. Very confusing in my opinion. Good to know though.


I just noticed the issues y’all mentioned. I wrote this URL and it seems to work to include observations annotated as flowering but exclude those that are also annotated as fruiting.

Edit: Using that URL (but changing the species) I found this observation that was marked as flowering but not fruiting. It has both so I added the fruiting annotation.

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Thank you to all. I didn’t know we could search for specific annotations. I appreciate the encouragement to fill in what I know and move on. I will do that. I will also do some of the easier ones (Moths/Butterflies and caterpillars) as mentioned.


As other people have said, annotate what you feel comfortable with. So many observations are uploaded and not annotated at all; anything you can do is a help.