Trees that were planted, but growing "in wild", should be considered "wild", and additional "grade" for "grey zone" is required

Yes, that’s the whole point. They are not natural forests if they have been planted.


Yeah, I usually prefer to err on the side of wild unless something’s clearly planted.

I think this would be a great help to settling this debate and also potentially help introduce useful data.

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Which from a tree’s point of view, has the same effect as the dog moving, i.e. it “moved to” a different habitat.

We have a thread on that very topic regarding Bison. And in that long debate, I sided with those who said that those Bison are, indeed, captive, in that they are not free to migrate or disperse to other places.

But a tree, once sprouted, is never free to migrate to another place, whether planted or wild. So we need a different criterion. And @pfau_tarleton has given us one:

Surviving on its own. That’s a valid criterion for an animal born in captivity but now gone wild; why not for a tree with the same backstory? @blue_celery says that a feral dog moving around affects its environment; well, how does a longstanding tree not? Its root system, its transpiration rate, its leaf litter, all affect its environment. I see the moving around argument as a false distinction.

Thank you. If we marked them all as cultivated, entire habitat types would vanish from the map – even though wildlife are using those allegedly nonexistent habitats.


Histrionics don’t help move the discussion along in a constructive manner.

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No, they wouldn’t. I live right at the start of many-times cut and replanted forest, I can map it all with pines and firs if I want just by recording small ones and if habitat is based on planted trees it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


The same point was raised in the Bison thread. It was pointed out that if the megafauna in fenced in reserves was all marked as captive, it would be as if the reserve disappeared from the map. Did you raise this objection there?

This topic is not about bison

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You compare habitat types with a herd of one species, then say reserve will dissapear from the map based on bisons in it? I’m sure it’s more than just bovines or they’d starved to death long ago. And bisons will always be on the map, just turn on casual observations.

I see both sides to the argument, and admittedly I do not fully understand the implications to GBIF data.

I really don’t have a leg in this race but @jasonhernandez74 does raise some reasonable points with his anecdotes, particularly with how captive/cultivated are treated between flora and fauna. Again, this is a fringe example but can replaced with any animal and demonstrates a point; if I take a Greater Rhea and transport to the US and release it into the wild, someone observes that and it is technically considered wild even though it arrived there from anthropogenic means. It didn’t choose to be in the US, but it’s here. If I plant a tree I understand that the offspring of that tree are considered wild but that leaves a discrepancy with how the individual is treated. It’s not capable of moving, but is surviving in the wild without human intervention and is now part of the landscape.

I agree that these observations should not be marked as casual and lumped with observations of people’s dogs, house or garden plants, or otherwise. They can be important components to a habitat, for example around me the only places you find Golden-Crowned Kinglets breeding are in patches of Norway spruce, and therefore I think it is critical for them to remain visible in some way, shape, or form.

Another important question to ask in all of these situations is how effective any sort of implementation of this magnitude would be, bearing in mind the principal mission of iNat (connecting people to nature). What percentage of observers and/or identifiers are going to follow a new method or even be capable of following it? I spend an exorbitant amount of time outdoors and in most cases I wouldn’t be able to tell you if the Norway spruce I’m looking at seeded itself or if this is an old property lot where it had been planted. Would a small proportion of ‘naturalized’ plants being identified as such compared to the majority of ‘naturalized’ plants being misidentified as wild contribute to better data quality of just befuddle it more? I’m not sure.

All that being said, an observation is a mere snapshot, saying this organism was here on this date at this time. You can infer certain things from that but really that is the only thing that can be determined with absolute certainty.

Again, no leg in this race, but thought these pertinent concepts to bring up. To add a little humor to the discussion I found the bullet on this on the iNat help page amusing “the community agrees the organism isn’t wild/naturalized (e.g. captive or cultivated by humans or intelligent space aliens)”


same problem with me too, I have recently started the mission to grow native seeds from seeds in my house and then plant them in the rainy season in barren lands and empty space to make them grow and I don’t need to take care of them. Now I am wondering these trees were here hundred years ago, gone in middle planted by me now, Then I think it should have a different mark in cultivated option.( I can be wrong :) )

I’m not sure why you talk about naturalized plants being “misidentified” as wild. Most naturalized plants are wild plants. A naturalized species is a species first introduced by humans to the place where they are now living, and has established a self-sustaining population there, continuing to live in its new home, for many generations since humans brought it there, reproducing, and spreading there, without further human assistance. By the iNaturalist definition a “wild” plant is one that no human planted. Others might define a “wild” plant as one that is further away, or more generations away, from its planted parents, or grandparents, using terms like “escapees” for a plant whose parents were planted in a garden, but it is growing some distance from that garden, reserving the term “wild” for plants that are some indefinite number of generations removed from their planted ancestors.


Sorry, yes I may have used the wrong language there as I don’t know the right term. What I was referring to plants that were once planted by humans but are now growing without human intervention, for example a planted tree that was part of an old lot that has now become forested. There are many instances of this where I’m from, and it may not be readily apparent to an amateur observer that the tree was not seeded naturally. Again, Norway spruces are a good example for my area, where there are many that were planted and are growing in what is now conservation land, and they’re nearly impossible to tell apart from ones that have propagated themselves from a nearby parent. There are old groves of them were it’s a total monoculture of them in terms of trees which is obvious, but much of the time that isn’t the case.

Most planted plants are currently growing without human intervention, even ones in gardens.


Yes, but I think you would agree that there is a difference between someone’s hosta and a now-mature chestnut tree initially planted as a reintroduction effort. One is contributing to the ecology of a landscape, and the other is essentially a pet.

Anyway, I see now after browsing this topic and several others that this is a contentious subject and would like to remove myself from the conversation as I don’t feel strongly enough about the subject to argue what iNat’s viewpoint should be on this.

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Every planted plant is contributing to the world around it, hostas have flowers and are eaten by insects, etc. Chestnut that is most likely genetically different from those around it, growing at a spot where there’s a question if it would grow naturally, is no less alien than a hosta.


I really do not think there is a difference for the reasons @Marina_Gorbunova stated.

I think thats the fundamental reason this topic of debate is never-ending. The current wild vs non-wild distinction is arbitrary and not ideal, but as others have pointed out not really changeable for historical reasons. What is changeable is removing captive things from the ‘verifiable’ pool and distribution maps. Which means that I want to go ID captive observations, I have to uncheck ‘verifiable’, so I have to wade through all the unusable observations, such as ones where the photo is just a picture of a rock but someone has voted down every single DQA option as a way of indicating their displeasure with the observation (sidenote: please don’t do that).

Captive observations can be just as (or more) ‘verifiable’ as wild ones. There are already plenty of filter options so you could just add an (opt-in) option where verifiable but captive observations show up in identify. And if GBIF doesn’t want them then they don’t have to be exported, I doubt if many affected users even know that GBIF exists, much less caring whether or not any particular observation is exported to it.


all the hostas in my neighbor hood are making a pretty significant contribution to local deer stomach contents.

The question is just did a human plant it there or not


I agree with that, and I agree with @Marina_Gorbunova on some level. I guess in my head there’s a distinction between an area that is actively being managed (like a yard/lawn/garden) and a plot that’s gone wild with a tree or trees (or other plants) persisting within everything else that’s inhabited that area. I had only previously read the data quality assessment definition of captive/cultivated previously and somehow missed the longer version above it.

This makes it pretty clear what should and shouldn’t be marked as captive, and that my thoughts on the subject were wrong. I realize now that marking captive and ways of indicating habitats, conservation implications, etc.,. are two distinct subjects. In my mind, just based on how I typically see it used, captive was reserved for captive animals, house and garden plants, and the sort and thus things become essentially invisible when marked as cultivated. It’d be useful if there was a distinction between these things and things that were planted or are persisting in the “wild”, which is perhaps what spawned this discussion in the first place.

Anyway, seems to be a hot topic right now with many threads (and many different opinions) about it, but for me I’ll just follow the rule as written as closely as possible.


According to Merriam-Webster:

Essential Meaning of cultivate

1 to prepare and use (soil) for growing plants

2 to grow and care for (plants)

3 to grow or raise (something) under conditions that you can control

Something surviving on its own does not fit these definitions, even if someone did plant it long ago.