What is reasonable wait time for ID

I have submitted two photos of what I believe is a weed cover plant as of July 15 2019 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada using the android “inaturalist” app.

I have no response to the submission and was wondering what a reasonable response wait time would be.

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I id’d your observation on the site.

Time to ID is highly variable. It can vary depending on various factors:

  • Taxonomic group - there are way more people identifying birds than fungi for example
  • Identification difficulty - There’s a lot more people that can identify birds or butterflies than can identify little weeds.
  • Photo quality - if your observation isn’t identifiable, it will never get identified. The better your photos are, the more likely it will be identified
  • Luck - randomness as to when someone looks at your photo that can identify it
  • Time of year - Summer is a busy time for many identifiers. Right now, many Ontario plants are going unidentified/unconfirmed because there are more people posting plants than people available to ID them. Hopefully we can catch up to some degree over the winter. For example, here’s a couple easily identified plant observations I’ve made that have gone unconfirmed for months:

So yeah - if you post a sharp picture of a American Robin in mid-January, it will be identified within seconds to minutes. If you post a blurry photo of a mushroom in mid-August, it will maybe never get identified.


I see you got an ID now. When you submit an observation, you will get far better response if you provide the best identification you can. Yours was listed only as Unknown. If you had identified it as Plants or Flowering Plants, you likely would have got an ID much quicker. Experts look at the types of observations they are good at. Occasionally someone goes through the Unknown observations to give them general IDs so the experts see them, but it could sit there for many months as Unknown.


Your question has a faint can-I-speak-to-the-manager ring to it.

It’s worth pointing out that the only people who will look at your observation are volunteers who do it because they like doing it. So you want to make it easy for others (as @jciv points out), and you may want to think about how you can contribute - “pay it forward” as it were - by looking at, and identifying others’ observations. You can contribute at any level, even just by asking questions. Don’t be intimidated, jump right in.


Just a note: according to our stats page, average time to ID is about 534 hours at the moment.

And yes, it’s important to remember that all IDs on iNaturalist are made by volunteers who are using their own time to help you and other users out. And that many things simply cannot be identified from photos, or at least a single photo.

The best thing to do is take identifiable photos showing various aspects of the organism (eg leaves and flowers of a plant, the underside and the top of a mushroom), add a specific an ID as you can, like Plants or Fungi or Insects, and if possible to add IDs to other users’ observations.


Sometimes, someone identifies one of my observations as long as a year or two later. When it happens, I’m always pleasantly surprised. There’s no specific wait time for identifications. I occasionally move Unknowns in my geographical area into general categories (I’m no expert) because I like helping out. It’s really luck of the draw in terms of IDs and patience. Do more iNatting–the more observations, the more IDs start coming your way, and your burning curiosity over one observation lessens. Also, more people become familiar with your contributions and help you out. It really is a community in that way.:slightly_smiling_face:


To me there hasn’t ever been an exact waiting time for Identifying observations. Often times, I’ll have people ID a bird photo sooner than any of my insect observations, but that’s totally fine because I know eventually someone will get to it. There’s no real rush, you just sort of got let these things take time. I recently had an Ashy Gray Lady Beetle observation recently Identified that I uploaded back in June.


looks like the computer vision would have done a reasonably good job of identifying the particular plant. it may be worth spending some time familiarizing yourself with the system a bit. there are some FAQs, video tutorials, etc., that may be worth looking at.


For plants, I provide the best id I can for my record — sometimes it’s only “flowering plants” — and don’t assume it will be identified anytime soon. However I will revisit it and try to id it myself over weeks or months. I’m always happy and appreciative when a good botanist comes along and helps me out but since there are just not that many of them and too many plant records, I don’t count on that.


@rjw47 There is a really handy tool available for this. When I am pleasantly surprised by a new ID on one of my observations, I often click the down arrow to the far right of their username (in their ID block on my detail page for that observation). One of the choices listed is

Identify observations:

  • By [username]

That takes me to an Identify window for their observations, where I can tweak filter settings and look for any of their observations I can help move forward by adding an ID. One of the best ways to say “thank you” for a new ID, and hopefully encourage more.


I am mainly a “plant-person”. I follow the obs made in my locality, (by subscribing to Places, on the front page) and identify what I can. If a new user (ie someone who has only made a few dozen observations or less) has made a good effort to describe the subject of their observation and its habitat - where it was growing what sort of conditions and plants around it …and entered at least “Plants”, I often look at their other observations, and identify what I can. Especially if they have received very few identifications. I don’t want them to be discouraged, as I remember feeling a sort of void with my first few, and wondering if I’d “done it wrong”…so if i can’t identify any of them I offer something I hope is encouraging…eg “Gee, I don’t know…wonder what it is”. (Some people may find that irritating, I don’t know, but I only do it on one or two of their obs).

If someone whose username i haven’t seen before makes a helpful comment or suggests an ID for one of my obs, I often have a look at their profile. Sometimes that leads to me looking through their unidentified obs and sometimes making an ID.

So…I agree with everyone that getting “out and about” by looking at others’ obs, following your own interest of course, is the way to start getting some ID’s and learning to make more of your own.


While I do not know what might be reasonable, some of the observations I have worked on date back five or more years. There are corners of the plant kingdom that are less frequented. 534 hours is an excellent average, but there may be a long tail on that time-to-identication distribution. As noted above, you can join the identification effort and help out. Pick an area of interest, learn the species, and make identifications. Watch for notifications of comments on identifications you have made - others will help guide you. The result is a wonderful learning experience!


Thanks for posting those links! Awesome resources!

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One thing I’ve been curious about is whether people with large numbers of followers might have lower time-to-IDs. E.g, maybe time-to-ID for users with zero followers might be 1000 hours, while somebody with 100 followers might get an ID in 24. I guess some sort of difference would be expected but it would be interesting to see those values correlated to quantify the effect. There are many reasons why number of followers is not causal to fast IDs (e.g., users might take superior pics, post really interesting pics, make lots of IDs for others, be famous, etc.). But still potentially interesting because it might explain how the user experience might be different for brand new users.