What to do with artificial hybrids?

The artificial hybrid taxon x Fatshedera lizei (resulting from a cross between Fatsia japonica and Hedera helix) was recently merged into “Araliaceae”. See:

I flagged this taxon as it seems this merge results in a loss of information; observations can no longer be identified with precision to this taxon below the rank of family, nor can it be searched in any way. Please note that this is NOT a cultivar name. Both the nothogenus (x Fatshedera) and the species (x Fatshedera lizei) are legitimate and validly published names for this taxon (and are even listed as such in POWO). The sole issue seems to be that, as an artificial hybrid, it is not an “accepted” name in POWO and thus cannot be recognized in iNaturalist.

Is this a general policy in iNaturalist? If we are to continue to accept observations of cultivated plants, surely a name that is validly published for the taxon (and recognized in numerous taxonomic references) should be acceptable to identify them?


No, a name to identify each horticultural cross is not necessary nor desired in our taxonomy. Such instances are allowed on occasion, but not wanted. Yes, to maintain consistency, all horticultural (artificial) crosses should not be maintained, although I have a feeling the shedding of these names would cause outcry amongst users, many of whom do not maintain or understand the maintenance of our shared taxonomy. If you wish to change iNat policy and our approach to vascular plant taxonomy, you can send a proposal to staff.

Edit: please keep in mind, each individual deviation from Plants of the World Online must be marked and maintained individually. Every artificial hybrid, if maintained, is a deviation. There is currently a backlog of over 18,000 taxa missing connections to our vascular plant taxonomy, all of which need some form of attention from curators and staff.

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Addendum: If iNaturalist were to ban all observations of cultivated plants, I’d be happy. It’s entirely overwhelmed with observations of cultivated plants, the vast majority of which are extremely common species, hybrids, or cultivars. (My specialty is Gesneriaceae and I wish I had a nickel for every sad, sickly potted “african violet” that I’ve had to flag as cultivated.) But if cultivated plants are allowed, some degree of identification must be allowed because otherwise, what’s the point of allowing them in the first place? Identification of cultivated plants to genus is generally good enough for me. As a nothogenus, x Fatshedera is an unusual situation but maybe one worth an exception, in my opinion.


I think there are valid reasons to upload cultivated plants. And I understand very well feeling overwhelmed with unmarked observations (lord knows I’ve complained about that on this forum myself too many times to count).
However, I feel like this is an issue that needs to be resolved in other ways and without resorting to “banning all observations of cultivated plants”


I’m not proposing banning all observations of cultivated plants, just expressing an impossible dream. I would settle for some effective way to get people to flag their own observations as cultivated, but I know that’s been an ongoing discussion/struggle on iNaturalist for quite some time.


Instead. Write a journal post.
‘Seeking an identifier to do the first sweep of Gesneriaceae - and mark as cultivated for me’
There are lots of identifiers in the forum looking for a slice of Unknowns and / or Needs ID to look after.

Getting people to say up front Cultivated, needs iNat to separate Needs ID and Cultivated. With personal settings so we see, or don’t see, what we want.

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How many observations were in the genushybrid Fatshedera before it was merged?

If there weren’t that many observations, then I’d say it would be fine to go ahead and merge it. If there were a lot of observations, I think it would be a better idea to set up a deviation, like we have for ×Chitalpa tashkentensis. https://www.inaturalist.org/taxon_framework_relationships/420012.

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14 IDs of × Fatshedera, 53 of × Fatshedera lizei.

Looks like 35 or so observations had active IDs of one or the other at the time of the merge.
(On a handful of these, the observation ID has shifted back to an initial misID [presumably - I don’t know these plants well enough to confirm that it was a misID myself] of Fatsia japonica/Hedera helix/etc. due to former disagreeing nothogenus/species IDs being swapped to non-disagreeing family-level IDs, which makes me wonder whether it’d be possible [if even desirable] to make it so taxon changes retain explicit disagreements where they’d otherwise disappear, at least in certain cases)

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I think what’s bugging me is that merging a nothospecies to the level of genus (something I have no problem with) still retains a fair bit of taxonomic information, but merging a nothogenus to the level of family loses a fair bit of taxonomic information.

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A merge to one genus would be inaccurate.

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Hmmm, I’m increasingly convinced that the best idea would be to retain nothogenera and nothospecies with deviations. Even though artificial hybrids aren’t necessarily ideal under iNaturalist’s system, they still get observed all the time, so we need some way to deal with them.

Plus, even if the benefits of keeping these “janky” taxa are slight, I really don’t think we’re causing any harm. So the cost-benefit analysis works out, at least in my mind.

Please read the iNaturalist Curator Guide’s section on hybrids. It outlines how nothogenera and nothospecies should be treated on iNaturalist. https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/curator+guide#hybrids

The benefit is being able to identify non-wild plants, observations of which can never reach Research Grade. The cost is an unimaginable amount of upkeep from volunteer curators and staff, who must now manually add every non-wild hybrid uploaded to the site, create deviations for each taxon, and maintain all of these scattered, unsupported taxa through taxonomic changes, all without the the ability to reference our primary external framework.


Hi, I should clarify that I don’t mean retaining all or even most of the nothogenera/nothospecies. Rather, I noticed that there are a small set of these that are worth keeping, and ×Fatshedera lizei was one of them. (Also, with all due respect, telling me to read the Curator Guide comes off as a bit condescending since I’ve already read it before.)

I think we are valuing things differently. For example, I appreciate being able to identify non-wild plants, and see an inherent value in identifying/sorting things even if they never reach Research Grade. And while I don’t want to minimize the work that curations like you do to maintain the taxonomy, I notice that out of the Tracheophyta taxa with unknown relationships, there are 22 pages of hybrid taxa and 2 pages of genushybrids. That is a lot, but dwarfed by the 580 pages of all of the other Tracheophyta taxa lacking relationships. Therefore, I don’t see the upkeep as “unimaginable” in my view.

Perhaps this is my call to become a curator. I realize that I may have come off as arrogant, since you have experience being a curator and here I am with no curator experience, talking about how it’s not that much work. So if I believe that the benefits of keeping (some) of these taxa outweigh the costs, then I should put in the work to make sure that happens!


My statement about relationship unknowns was intended to convey the current state of our taxonomy, even without a mass-import of unsourced artificial hybrids. It is this bad currently, without the addition of those extra taxa. Unsourced genushybrids and hybrids are not as bad as they were, because I have been working on them.

The issue with sorting species is that our compartments for sorting have to come from somewhere, and have to be maintained by someone. If you wish to become a curator and take responsibility for the organization of non-wild taxa, you are more than welcome to apply, but I do not think adding these additional groups is a good idea for the current state of iNat.

I did not intend to come off as condescending - I didn’t read the curator guide before I decided to apply for curator, so I don’t assume others have.


In case anybody is still interested in this topic, there has been additional discussion under the curation flag: https://www.inaturalist.org/flags/609057

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