What to do when you know an ID is wrong but you don't know what the correct ID is?

Hello all. Sorry if this is been discussed before. I couldn’t find an exact match of my question.

I’m trying to up my number of IDs so that I’m contributing as much as I get back from iNat. I have run into the situation a lot where I can say for sure that the observer’s ID is wrong, but I have no idea what the correct species or even genus is. This is happening with plants.

Should I: 1) Leave a comment saying that I know the species is incorrect but don’t know what the correct one is or 2) Change it to something generic like “Plants.”

Here’s an example. What should I do here?
Link removed by moderators

Thanks for helping me learn to be a better ID-er.

Edit: I am lily-of-the-valley in this observation. Someone came along after my post to offer an additional ID.


You could enter “Dicots” or “Flowering plants” for all the erroneous ones and say “Not Chinese Fringe Flower, but sorry, I don’t know what it is.”


I agree with Janet. What I do is ID as plants or whatever it is and leave a comment.


I try to suggest at least a family. I’ve never seen that plant before, so would also just have known it wasn’t Loropetalum. But it does look like it belongs in Malvaceae, so I would have suggested that family. If I can’t even recognise the family I will go back to “dicot” or “monocot”, but I then keep an eye on notifications, to make sure my basic ID isn’t causing problems later when people who do know come along.


Put the narrowest ID that you can. If you know it’s wrong, then a disagreeing ID is warranted. Notes are nice, and leaving them can help, but you don’t need to leave them. If the observer wants to know they can ask.


Welcome to the forum! Just a quick note that I removed the link to the specific observation, since it was noting another user’s mis-ID. It’s clear the link was included in good faith, but we want to avoid calling out specific users with links on the forum. I think the initial post is quite clear and makes sense even without the link.


If I truly can’t provide many suggestions on what something is (like, it’s not X, but is a dicot of some sort), I’ll sometimes add a non-disagreeing ID (so I can see what other identifiers add later) and a comment that it isn’t X, but I can’t help otherwise, and then let the observation sit a while. The CV often misidentifies things a certain way, so that people who know those plants may have already learned to recognize the common mis-IDs and may be able to easily offer a correction, whereas sending something back to “dicot of mystery” may mean no one else looks at it for a long while. I can always go back and do a hard disagree later if it looks like no corrections are going to be offered.


Just remember that there’s a bug of sorts in the ID system: after you put in a disagreeing ID, in order for a new narrower one to take effect, you have to remove yours. Otherwise it will stay at “dicots” or whatever even if the original wrong ID is removed.


If you hard disagree (it is NOT, as opposed to Don’t Know)

We need more than two thirds against the wrong ID and the disagree = FIVE identifiers need to agree on the right ID.

If someone supported the wrong ID, or the it is A Plant - we need seven …

We have better management of Ancestor Disagreement if the Wrong ID is withdrawn or deleted - then - it is no longer counted as disagreement.

see @loarie’s comment 29 Feb 2024 - ‘minor ancestor disagreement change is live’

Definitely push back against an ID you know is wrong. But please follow your notifications to be sure your ID is not forcing 2 more identifiers to push back in turn.


Before adding a disagreeing ID, I sometimes try to get the user on the “right track”.
For example, a user has entered an ID by using a common name, but there are more than one species in the world with that common name and the user just added the first species as ID that is in the drop down menu without checking the scientific name, then I try to explain the situation.
Second, I look how old the ID is and if it was made by the CV. In the past, the CV often suggested a wrong species, then I ask the user to “re-run” the CV.


As indicated above, there are other approaches, softer approaches you might say. However, they all require that you keep track of the observation or at least any further comments or identifications in order to get the ID to the right place. Great when it works, but I, anyway, would loose track of such things quickly.

I say, go right to the hard disagreement (e.g., label it Dicot and click on the orange alternative). Label it at the lowest level you feel more or less confident about. Providing an explanation is certainly nice but not required. Watch your notifications in case there’s something you need to deal with.

Thank you, thank you for doing more ID’s. We need your help.


Right, that’s how it is set up to work. IMO, it would be better to be counted as “it is not” only for the one listed, and “don’t know” for anything else within the higher group.

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If I don’t know, I will start with a comment most of the time.
When the ID is way off, I just say “This is not a grass (or other family)”
Otherwise I leave a note of why I think the ID is incorrect.
If I don’t have time, I just leave it for later - or for someone else who would know what it is.

I consider it a bad form bumping up too high with no explanation.

That. Is what identifiers expect. That is what we mean.

But iNat displays it as ‘John disagrees with Previous species’
then silently decides that John is in a foul mood and disagrees with ALL identifiers.

I concede defeat.