Uploader selects species from wrong region

There’s an issue with the photo uploader assigning the right species to the right common name. I want to see if it’s fixable by assigning places to the common names before suggesting it might be a bug.

With my common name settings set to English and United States, the uploader has always correctly assigned Pieris rapae to an image tagged as Cabbage White, and Vanessa cardui to one tagged as Painted Lady. But recently these English names have been added to other species, causing the wrong species to be assigned by the uploader: Pieris brassicae and Gladiolus debilis.

I tried to associate North America and United States to the preferred N. Am. English names of all four species. But the uploader still picks the wrong species for Cabbage White and Painted Lady. Is this an issue with the current place-name associations or is it an uploader bug?


It would be great to see screenshots of the upload page, and specific examples of observations affected by this.

A partial reply for now:

I caught the Painted Lady errors before submitting but not these 3 Cabbage White examples that got through and were corrected by an identifer. Note the photo tags, which became observation tags.

I think you could reproduce this by just tagging a photo with Cabbage White or Painted Lady, setting your common name settings to English and United States, and putting the photos on the uploader.

I guess that’s the issue with common names. A plant or animal’s ‘correct’ common name is whatever people decide to call it. There are no rules as in scientific nomenclature. According to Wikipedia, the common name for Pieris rapae is “small white” anyway, and as far as I can tell, Gladiolus debilis IS called “painted lady”.

I wonder if this is not a case analogous to what was discussed here.


I’m a bit confused as to why a taxon was chosen at all - my understanding is that if there is more than one taxon attached to a common name, iNaturalist wouldn’t populate the ID field at all. We can look into it.

More broadly, @mftasp is correct in that this is an inherent issue with common names. When I do add keywords for my photos for upload to iNat, I use the scientific name. It might take a little longer to look up names I’m not familiar with, but it’s helped me learn some scientific names, so I’ve found it to be worth it.

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@tiwane In the past it has appeared to work so that assigning Places to names could disambiguate such a case and leave only one species possibility for a Place. And the uploader would then pick the regionally singular choice, even when the common name was shared among multiple species. I see that as the desired behavior.

In the past, probably more than a year ago, I tweaked the place-name associations for Red Admiral and Silver-spotted Skipper (each different butterfly species in different continents) and checked what the uploader selected, and it selected the regionally correct species based on which common name settings I tried. I would try, for the Red Admiral example, uploading a tagged photo while my common name settings were set to either United States or to New Zealand, and in each case, the regionally correct species was chosen by the uploader. And the frequency of N. Am. Red Admirals incorrectly identified as New Zealand Red Admirals in the eastern US dropped significantly. I am not sure if this preceded or followed the feature of having single or separate place settings for observation searches and regional common name.

This week I had some Red Admirals in the same upload batches as the faulty Cabbage Whites and Painted Ladies, and uploads with a Red Admiral tag were resolved to the N. Am. species, correct for my common name settings. So here is a similar case that is still working.

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@treichard, as @tiwane says above, one fairly straighforward solution is to use the (still not completely unambiguous) scientific name. Cases of homonyms between different kingdoms are still occasionally an isue, but this is rare.

Speaking for plants in Australia only, you’re never going to get a ‘regionally correct’ common name for many species. Many, many species of plant have multiple ‘regionally correct’ names, and those names apply to different organisms sometimes even in the same place.

I think expecting common names to be a magic bullet in terms of conclusive ID of an organism is too fraught with danger to be useful.

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