There's something about Sonchus

For a couple of weeks I have been working through observations with exact_taxon_id=47604, that is, Asteraceae at family rank. And I have noticed that I identify more Sonchus than any other single genus – more even than Symphyotrichum. I wonder why that is? What could it be about Sonchus that people who don’t know it key in on it more strongly than on other Asteraceae they also don’t know?

This is one more data point in my general observation that iNat users, as a group, seem to have random “favorites” that get observed disproportionately often, irrespective of their relative abundance.


I don’t know worldwide, but cv ids it pretty well, it’s a genus that likes to live in urban environment, thus easily found and more observed (and really they’re on every corner you go to), it’s relatively easy to id to species, so people are more likely to spend time on it.

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Symphyotrichum isn’t common everywhere. Sonchus significantly outnumbers it here and in many areas I’ve been to. It’s often the first obliviously IDable plant I see when I step out of the door.


Maybe searching for Sonchus in your area will give you some insight? If you find that some people just falsely identified plants you’ll know. It could be. There are some common plants everyone knows and people who know only few species tend to call everything by the names they know. Else, it could be related to the features the AI uses to suggest that genus. Maybe there are species in the area that just happen to share some features with Sonchus species while the features the AI knows for their actual genus are more diverse…

Frequency may be one reason. But the genus usually also looks distinctive to people with no formal training/education in botany. Their regional vernacular name where I live is “Moosdisteln” (“Mossthistles”) to distinguish them from genuine thistles (mostly Cirsium sp., Carduus bothers the agricultural community far less). And S. asper and oleraceus show a limited but intriguing infraspecfic variability that perhaps subconsciously attracts people to photograph them (if they see another population of the same species on the same day it can be that it does not look quite like the first one).


Family only, and I made the Sonchus IDs. And I am not going by any location, but worldwide Asteraceae.

As I said in the first message, they’re very abundant both in cities and in the wild settings, can live on concrete, on medow or crop field, there’re other comon Asteraceae, but not as many with easily-found yellow inflorescences and in cities, I don’t think anyone specifically drawn to dandelions would confuse them with Sonchus, they’re just can be called pretty, they’re big and found everywhere.

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