"Thousands of native plants are unphotographed..."

A research summary posted on Phys.org is titled: " Thousands of native plants are unphotographed, and citizen scientists can help fill the gaps". Link: https://phys.org/news/2023-03-thousands-native-unphotographed-citizen-scientists.html

From the article: “Using a platform like iNaturalist, keen citizen scientists can have their snaps identified by experts and share the data with aggregators like the Atlas of Living Australia and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to be used in research and conservation.”

That’s what we do. High-fives all around.


:metal: :camera_flash: :cactus: :metal:


Way to go @thebeachcomber !!!
An Interview with Thomas Mesaglio (@thebeachcomber) · iNaturalist


This is very cool. With the variety of plants in California I wonder how many of our species are missing from iNaturalist.


Quite a few! I don’t have a comprehensive list, but I’ve run into a lot of stuff in the checklists that doesn’t even have a photo on calflora or calphotos either, or maybe just has a pic of a dried herbarium specimen.


Excitingly, after we published yesterday and I did the usual Twitter and FB promos, I noticed a few ecologists already joining iNat and adding old photos of rare Australian plants that were on our unphotographed list


Well that sounds like any number of school projects just waiting to happen.


It is great to have the publicity and to encourage more people to join and add their observations.
I haven’t gone to the original paper, but I wonder how many of the “missing” species may be already
up on iNat and just awaiting id or confirmation?


unsure of how many exactly, but they’re definitely out there

two recent examples; both uploaded to iNat last year, and just ID’ed this week by Russell Barrett


I was happy to add some Brazilian plant species to iNaturalist recently, including this one:


It was identified by a botanist, Vinicius, who commented that he’s been studying this species for five years in his doctorate (presumably from preserved herbarium specimens collected who knows when) but he had never seen a photo of the living plant!


That’s so cool! I’d totally believe there are a ton out there waiting for ID…I had a “long legged fly” sitting for over 2 years, and it just got ID’d! I don’t think it’s rare (fly folk didn’t say it was at least) but still!
Makes me wish I knew more rare species to comb through things to try and find a missing one.

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And of course, the hidden treasures are not limited to plants. Here’s a never-previously-photographed moth I put name to about 2 years after it had been uploaded to iNaturalist:
I remarked at the end of that journal article: “It makes me wonder what other unrecognized discoveries are hidden among unidentified observations on iNaturalist!”


Considering that the OP referenced Australia, which has extensive remote areas (“outback”), it makes me wonder how many of these unrecognized discoveries are in or near human settlements vs. in little-explored places. Many native plants unphotographed on the Nullarbor seems not so far-out; but if many native plants remained unphotographed in the outskirts of Sydney, that would surprise me.

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here’s the heat map of unphotographed species from our paper

whilst the major hotspots are indeed in more rugged and remote areas as you would expect, such as The Kimberley or Arnhem Land, there are definitely still a noteworthy number with records from around major cities (many of these tend to be grasses or sedges). In fact, there are ~150 unphotographed species with records from around the Greater Perth region, a state capital with 2+ million people

conversely the Nullabor seems to have very few unphotographed species, which is likely driven by a combination of three factors:

  1. Low diversity region, so easier to tick the few species off compared to hyperdiverse areas
  2. Many of Australia’s arid zone species have very wide distributions across the whole arid centre, so even if individuals of a species haven’t been photographed in the Nullabor, good chance that species has been ticked off/photographed elsewhere
  3. Sampling biases. The heatmap is based on collections, and some of the more remote areas of the Nullarbor are likely undersampled even by botanists, so there might be some undetected unphotographed species there

I’m not surprised. It’s probably even worse for the non-vascular plants. I created a checklist for the liverworts of North Carolina a while ago, using published keys, and over 1/3 of those species have no taxon picture on iNat. I’ve looked for some of them but there either aren’t pictures or they are of dried herbarium samples or microscopy.


I’ve got loads of photos of flowers and plants in WA but I don’t know what most of them are, with certainty. Do I just upload them without a name?


for sure! Just add as best an ID as you can (if that happens to be ‘plants’, that’s completely fine), and others will ID them for you. Important not to leave the ID blank


Thanks, I’ll get pasting.


For Africa - honest Unknowns will get seen sooner (I am way behind as there is a huge batch of


Please combine multiple pictures of the same individual of a species

sob - Plantae - in Africa 46K and I won’t even get to look at those! Never mind consider a cautious ID.

PS sorry WA is not West Africa, but West Australia? Maybe that does get IDs?

yes I’m referring to Western Australia