What incentive is there for users to mark their observations as captive / cultivated?

I’ve recently encountered a user who refuses to mark their captive / cultivated observations as captive / cultivated. They upload far too many observations for other users to mark all of their captive / cultivated observations for them. Originally I thought they were a new person, but checking back I realize they are a veteran user.

If someone reaches out to contact them and teaches them how to mark observations as captive / cultivated, but the user just decides they don’t want to… What does iNaturalist do about it? Can iNaturalist staff do anything at all or are they completely powerless?

The more I think about it, the more I had to ask… What is even the incentive for users to utilize the captive / cultivated feature? Let’s face it not everyone who uses iNaturalist is going to care about recording data on wild organism populations… Not everyone will care if they’re contributing to false data collection. Many people are simply just wanting to save pictures of animals and plants online and to find out what things are, they couldn’t give a hoot about the integrity of your citizen science data recording. If observations are hidden from a majority of identifiers after they’re marked as captive / cultivated I’m sure that is just further incentive not to use the feature.

I really don’t think anyone will / wants to sit there for hours marking someone else’s observations as captive / cultivated just because the person in question doesn’t want to do it themselves. I mark observations for new people all the time, but also teach them how to do it themselves so they’re not a burden on the iNaturalist community. What I don’t understand though, is when you see a guy who’s been on the website far longer than you and with almost 6000+ observations (many of which are captive / cultivated, but not marked as such). You just sort of shake your head in disbelief.


Well, the carrot in this case would be that they’re contributing accurate data to iNaturalist.

The stick would be potential suspension: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/community+guidelines

(!) Intentionally adding false IDs or DQA votes. We expect you to submit information that you believe is an accurate assessment of the evidence provided, and not intentionally false. It’s ok to make an incorrect identification or accidentally add an incorrect date or something, but it’s not ok to intentionally add an incorrect identification or add an intentionally false vote to the Data Quality Assessment.

Add accurate content and take community feedback into account. Any account that adds content we believe decreases the accuracy of iNaturalist data may be suspended, particularly if that account behaves like a machine, e.g. adds a lot of content very quickly and does not respond to comments and messages.


one issue is that captive/cultivated observations, casual grade, are far less likely to get IDed. its almost certainly not going to happen. if im being perfectly honest, i have on occasion posted something captive/cultivated and not marked it for a few hours until i got it IDed (or after a day or two if still not IDed), and then i would mark it down. because otherwise, it will not get identified. i care about things being marked correctly so I do fix it, but unfortunately for someone who only wants to use the site for IDs and doesnt care about data quality, there really is no motivation to do it right


I’m not sure there is much of an inherent incentive past what was mentioned with the stick/suspension. However, other people need to ID to make a thing Research Grade, and I imagine identifiers would be quicker to label something as wild/captive.


thankfully, there are many users that do indeed do this to help maintain data quality. I spend a lot of my time doing this for Australia records, I’ve marked thousands upon thousands of cultivated records as such. Yes it’s tedious, but imo it’s worth my effort

one small reward of doing this is that it has allowed me to stumble upon some really interesting records of genuinely wild, newly naturalised weeds that I might otherwise never have noticed. In a few cases, I’ve visited the same site and been able to collect vouchers + deposit them at the NSW herbarium, and have them registered as new records for the state/country


Would the guideline about Intentionally adding false IDs or DQA votes apply in cases where there are two photos of different plants in one observation, for example, and instead of identifying as “plants” or “flowering plants” the identifer will instead identify the observation as “Life” and will also add a disagreeing ID of “Life” to observations in which another identifier has already added an identification of “plants” or “flowering plants?”

I push those to Life. Because I see the other side. First ID is … dicots. Second identifier looks only at the first picture, IDs that. Third ID takes it to RG with random taxon pictures of - Oh I didn’t see the second picture!

We need three categories
Not Wild - AKA Captive or Cultivated - and weirdly AKA bin it in Casual with the broken stuff.
BROKEN - missing location date media, duplicate to be deleted, multiple species to be split, multiple photos to be combined in ONE obs - all problems which can only be resolved by the observer - and should not be identified. Our only effective workaround is to push them to Life and Casual. Especially if that observer has gone, dormant!

There is an open request to separate Is it Wild from Needs ID. Then Identifiers can use filters, and observers can be honest up front. CV is more effective if you tell it - this is planted, instead of forcing CV to find an unhappy match for a ‘wild’ plant.

And a third open request for a draft mode. So observers who plan to add IDs later can keep them out of Needs ID until they can get them sorted first.

Hoping for better tools for the 500 people who provide 50% of all IDs across iNat.


Yes I do. When I ID - if the picture is poor quality or commonorgarden, I push it straight to Casual. If I can (with good pictures), I will add a useful ID, follow my notifications, and then push it to Casual when it would have reached RG. Part of ID etiquette for Team ID.


I do this too. I will stop doing it this way when marking things as captive/cultivated doesn’t stop them from getting seen or identified. I guess you can suspend me, if you think that following the rules to the letter is more important than everything I contribute.

There is zero incentive to mark observations as captive/cultivated on upload when a) that actively hides them from Needs ID and stops them from getting identifications and b) it doesn’t get marked as Research Grade until after it gets identified anyway, it’s not screwing with anyone’s data before then unless they are making the questionable choice to include unverified observations in their data.


For those of you who intentionally do not mark plants you know to be cultivated as “not wild” because you want an ID:

Is there a reason why you don’t instead mark the observation as not wild and then tag relevant IDers asking for help?

Or, if the only reason you are uploading the observation to iNat is to find out what it is (rather than recording phenology information or food plants of arthropods etc.), why you can’t use some other app specifically designed for identifying garden plants?

To be honest I find it very inconsiderate towards your fellow users to try to trick them into providing an ID by deliberately not marking the observation correctly. Some users are happy to ID cultivated plants and may even look at observations marked as casual. Other users may not be familiar with ornamental garden plants and can’t help with an ID anyway.

Looking at an observation and evaluating what it is and whether it is wild or cultivated is something that takes a certain amount of time and energy. So even if all I do with an observation of a cultivated plant is look at it, assess whether it was planted or could be an escaped garden plant, and then tick the box “not wild” rather than adding an ID, that is time I could have been spending actually IDing someone else’s observation.

I will provide IDs for new users who upload cultivated plants if I happen to know what it is, but if it is clear that an experienced user is doing so and intentionally not marking them, the observation gets marked as “not wild” and I move on. So not only do you not get your ID, you get a slightly annoyed IDer who will be less inclined to ID your observations in the future, whether wild or not.


First question: I don’t know everybody’s names, and honestly I don’t feel like “you have to already know who can identify things” is how the site should work. Also, when people tag me it gets lost in notifications, so I don’t expect anyone else to keep up with their tags.

Second question: I don’t upload them for the sole purpose of getting them identified. Knowing what plants are cultivated in a specific area is also helpful, for things like the flower-visiting wasps project, pollinator associations, knowing what plants invasive insects tend to like, etc. – but the data that a random angiosperm is cultivated is not useul. They need to be identified before they can be useful.

I fail to see how this is “tricking” anyone – you see the same organism I see, in the same habitat I see it in; just because I am not explicitly telling you it’s cultivated doesn’t mean I’m hiding that fact.

I also fail to see how not checking the box for a few hours has any practical difference for identifiers from someone who just forgets to check the box. If it’s not a big problem in that case, why would it be a big problem in this one? What is the actual practical difference? Doesn’t coming back and fixing it make it less of a problem than forgetting to check the box and maybe never doing that?

If you don’t want to evaluate whether something is captive and would rather be identifying stuff, I don’t see why you don’t just… move on and continue identifying stuff. Part of what I love about this site is that there are so many different ways to contribute, if something really bothers you, you can do something else.

If you choose not to add IDs when marking things as captive, that’s your prerogative, but please consider that captive observations without IDs are useless and unlikely to be made useful by getting identified. You would be making the whole observation useless just because it’s missing one piece of data.


I live in a relatively small county that happens to host the State Botanical Garden. I’m familiar with our local plants, but it is incredibly frustrating that I have to scroll through often pages of cultivated plants. So much so, that I tend to focus my IDs on the neighboring counties instead.

These aren’t pointless rules. Your contributions are appreciated, but there are ways to contribute within the scope of the rules.

I think this is where using projects that allow casual-grade observations can be particularly useful. Garner identifiers that are interested in these things and they will contribute IDs to CG observations. Done this way, you get the added benefit of a curated collection of CG observations specific to the project’s objectives (e.g., you don’t have to sift through observations of indoor houseplants for a pollinator-related project), and you don’t clog the identify tab for people.


I do not understant it too. it’s written in plain words and it is in front of you when you are going to upload the observation.
It is an issue that present worldwide here in iNat. There are users who could be told many times and as most politely and exhaustively as possible just to check that box before submitting the identification but nothing, they will go on doing the same.
In the end, I think that we could consider lucky when at least the position is precise and they did not mark the observation as wild (it happens…).

This is right but there are users who identify many casual observations. After all, is iNat an identification factory? Is the interest in non-wild organisms a genuine interest in nature? I really doubt it. On the contrary, I am tempted to think that the interest only in cultivated plants actually is a sort of plant blindness.

Apart these “compulsive non-wild things observers”, the vast majority of users who do not mark observations are here just because they are compelled or curious to see what iNat is. And they usually quit using iNat soon.


I wonder then, if you will ever see the obs where I disagreed with you today?


I typically skip observations of cultivated plants because in many cases I lack the knowledge to ID them. But unless they have been marked as such, I cannot exclude them from my searches and at a minimum I have to scroll past them to get to the observations where I can meaningfully contribute. More often, it requires looking at an observation, assessing whether it is cultivated (not always obvious at first glance) and marking as not wild before I move on. All of this takes time. Or in cases where it isn’t clear whether a plant is wild or not, there is also the time it takes to ask the observer about whether it was planted and then following up if necessary once they respond. None of which I would have to do if it had been marked properly in the first place.

The more observations of this type there are, the less time I have to spend looking at other observations. Observations of cultivated plants that have been deliberately not marked as wild inevitably increase this number.

Consider also that information about whether a plant is wild or cultivated can be important context for determining an ID – it can help narrow down the possibilities or provide a hint that non-local candidates or hybrids may need to be considered. So choosing not to mark plants as cultivated can actually be a disadvantage for getting an accurate ID.

By uploading an observation as “wild” even though you know it is not, you are deliberately providing misleading information, or at least withholding relevant information. By your own admission you are doing so with the explicit intent of eliciting certain behaviors from other users (an ID) that they would be less likely to provide if the observation was marked as not wild from the outset. (Otherwise, why not mark as cultivated?)

I fail to see how this can be considered anything but deception or manipulation of others for your own purposes. Practically it may not be much different than a user who uploads something without realizing it is not wild, or forgets to check a box. But morally it is not the same at all.

I personally do not enjoy the feeling of being used, or interacting with other people who are not upfront about their intentions.

How does correctly marking the data quality for an observation when the observer failed to do so make me responsible for making the observation “useless”?? The observer is free to enter an ID of their own, to research what the plant might be, to tag other users or add it to projects, etc. Marking an observation as “not wild” does not make it invisible. Those users who have the knowledge and inclination to ID cultivated plants can find it by including not wild observations in their searches.

You may feel that captive/cultivated observations are unjustly treated as second rate. But the way to gain more acceptance for non-wild observations is not by ignoring the conventions established in the community. Properly marking non-wild observations as captive will win you more goodwill than misusing the system.


If you have a pattern of
1 deliberately not marking as Not Wild
2 can’t be bothered to find an @mention
3 and then ignore notifications!
4 your local / taxon identifiers will notice and remember.

500 people provide 50% of the IDs on iNat.


I know of someone, who may or may not be the person this is about, who fits the description perfectly (maybe not perfectly, as I did look at the account and I think it’s probably not the same person but most of the information is the same) and I very thoroughly collected the instances in which this user did this, and put it all on a Google Doc and I left a moderator note in their moderation history with that link. It was well over hundreds of incidents. Many of those also had people telling the user or trying to engage with them and the user never answered those comments but seemed to gladly answer others.

This in no way is to question or judge or criticize staff, but I do recall staff being contacted about it and there was not really any firm solution and nothing ever changed. I was very frustrated and when I figured nothing would happen, I dropped it and stopped keeping up with the account. I know they didn’t stop after all the hubbub, though. Now that Tony has directly said it could be a potential suspension, I kinda want to try to find the user again and see if that account is still doing that. It felt very frustrating that somebody would not only deliberately falsify the data but then have nothing ever happen. It was a curator, too, which added to my puzzlement.


Careful. It’s iNaturalist who automatically hides casual observations. You know nothing about what users who provide IDs would do if captive observations were shown to them by default.

There have been many calls in the past to change this (https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/make-captive-cultivated-not-automatically-no-id-needed/112 is an example, but you can find so many others). As long as this doesn’t change, you can’t fault users to make the best of the situation they find themselves in.


The only incentive for users to mark captive/cultivated observations as such is to provide accurate data. That is a significant incentive to most of us.

However, iNaturalist actually provides incentives for NOT marking observations as captive/cultivated because those observations won’t get ID’d. Given that people will post cultivated plants, sometimes for good reasons (e.g. keeping data on pollinator associations all together in one database) and often from understandable ignorance, I agree with @schoenitz that we shouldn’t get mad at the observers about this.


I’m glad I came across this topic so I can be more diligent in my own observations. For the most part I’ve been assigning the wild/cultivated label correctly, but certainly not every time. In the instances where I made that mistake, it wasn’t done maliciously. Now the awareness is there and I can act accordingly. There are many cases where cultivated plants escape into natural or disturbed areas, so I assume in those instances they can be classified as wild? A few examples: Japanese knotweed, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, callery pears, multiflora rose, etc. What are the community thoughts in instances like these?