When do you apply the annotation "fruiting" to flowering plants?

I apply the annotation “fruiting” to observations of flowering plants (my own observations and those of others) when I see a fruit in one or more photos. I’m fairly liberal with this annotation. Even if the observer is holding the fruit in her/his hand, I still add the annotation.

I realize that not all users apply the annotation “fruiting” in the same way. Up until now, this hasn’t been a big deal. Now, however, a particular user is adding disagreeing annotations to my observations (and those of others) unless the plant is actively undergoing “the process of fruiting” at the time of observation. For example, if the fruit of a spring-flowering plant is visible in the winter, I will add the annotation “fruiting” but the other user will add a disagreeing annotation.

Is there “official” documentation that will help defuse this situation one way or the other? I’ve read the forum posts containing the word “fruiting” but they don’t really help since people’s opinion on the matter are all over the map.

Assuming there is no official documentation on “fruiting”, I wonder what other people do in situations like this? Suppose there’s an observation of a spring-flowering plant in winter. Suppose the plant in question is a mere skeleton but it is still holding onto its fruit so that the seeds have not yet dispersed. Would you annotate this observation as “fruiting” or not? If not, and someone else adds the annotation “fruiting”, would you be inclined to add a disagreeing annotation?

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Here’s the definition of the fruiting annotation value on iNat:


I think I’d refrain from adding it in the situation you’re describing, as it’s proabbly less useful when it comes to determining phenology, but I’m not a botanist.

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According to the definition

One would think once the plant has set fruit it would be considered fruiting, it’s in the active stage of producing fruit.
Once the fruit is produced and it’s completely ripe ready to be picked, it wouldn’t be in the active phase of fruiting. :woman_shrugging:t5:

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I’m a botanist, an my advice is do your best and don’t stress about it. Since iNat users aren’t trained to enter phenology data in any standardized way, the data shouldn’t be trusted as is. It could give someone doing research a general idea of when things happen, but if they needed more exact information, they’d need to check all the data and probably recode a lot of it to clean it up.
Also, people use “fruiting” data in different ways. I generally code observations with fruit as fruiting, regardless of the time of year, because most users on iNat searching for this annotation probably just need to see what a fruit looks like. Other people may use the “fruiting” annotation to give them an idea of when they might be able to harvest seeds if they needed them.
So-- I suspect all annotations of “fruiting” when there are fruit in the observation will at least be useful to someone.


I apply it whenever the fruit structure is visible - anywhere from an immature fruit right after the flower has withered, to last year’s old seed pod still clinging to the plant.

When I look for fruiting phenology in observations, I’m wanting to see pictures of what a fruit looks like so I can ID the plant at different stages. The skeletonized plant you describe is just as useful to me as a fresh and developing one. Actually, often more useful.


As an acitve word and a phenological stage, as with the ones for flowering and flower budding, I understand fruiting to be a process that is within the growth period, and not after the fruit is no longer whole after dehiscing and beginning to wither. In the case of Allium burdickii and A. tricoccum, the inactive seed might be present even in the following year when the plant is leafing and even occasionally when the scape is mature. If either of those species are recognized as fruiting at those times, then it would suggest fruiting can happen again that season for a period during the growing season. Even before flowering!

While according to iNat’s official directives the “Fruiting” annotation should only be used to denote a plant that is actively producing fruit, I use it whenever fruit is visible assuming that most users who filter observations by “Fruiting” just want to know what a certain fruit looks like (my case anyway). The annotation remains useful in determining the time of year at which a species produces its fruit, given a large enough sample of annotated observations. For example, based on my own annotations of oaks in Québec, I can deduce that most of them begin to fruit in july and august. Aberrant observations of fallen fruit made in spring and late autumn are rare enough anyway


Are not fruits or parts of fruits that remain on a plant following maturity just persistent? Perhaps users could instead add an observation field to note that, such as Peristent fruit or Persistent seed.


Yeah, like others have said, any time there is an identifiable fruit in the picture I will try to tag it as fruiting. I am aware that this annotation is imperfect, and hopefully iNat will add more options in the future, but it seems better to me to tag it as fruiting than to not annotate it at all.


There seem to be two uses for this annotation: 1) phenology tracking and 2) as an identification aid.

As a botanist, fruiting would mean the fruit is still on the plant, still containing seeds to be dispersed. Empty shells with no seeds left or fruit on the ground would not count. However, I find frequently when I refrain from adding a fruiting annotation to those someone else will add it later anyway.

As an iNat user, I realize those intricacies are nearly impossible to grasp for the average casual user without specific botanical interest in fruiting phenology. Given how a lay audience interprets this annotation (often applying it to any pictures with fruits in them), I’m fine with a more inclusive approach and treating it more like evidence of fruiting sort of like an empty nest and broken egg shell can be evidence for a bird.

I’m just happy people add annotations so we can search for these. If the fruit is distinctive enough to provide a clear ID, it may not matter whether it is still attached to the plant or in someone’s hand. Anyone who wants to use the data for phenology tracking would have to curate it for scientific accuracy, but that’s pretty much true for any data retrieved from iNat. I like to think of the annotations as a “first pass” at sorting the data into buckets that may be useful for further more detailed analysis for phenology stages, maybe by using observation fields to break it down further.


@gijsroaming , are you referring to only whole fruit or also part of the fruit, such as when the seed is the only remaining organ attached to the pedicel?

@tiwane that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that tool tip. How did you get it to display? (I see the word “project” in the screen shot.)

After some experimentation, I discovered the following tool tips by hovering over an already-applied annotation on an individual observation page:

  • Flower budding: Flower buds visible but not open
  • Flowering: Flowers visible, open, and still attached to the plant
  • Fruiting: Fruit visible and still attached to the plant
  • No evidence of flowering: Media provides no evidence of reproductive structures

How long have these tool tips existed and are they based on community input?

AFAICT the tool tips are not visible until after the annotation is applied. That doesn’t make much sense, so I suspect I might be missing something.


I can’t find any “official directive” on how annotations should be used. Can you provide a reference?

Although I disagree with you about the definition of fruiting, I agree with you that iNat’s directives on this are unclear.

I looked everywhere I knew and didn’t find a reference. Guess I made that up, probably because it’s always felt wrong to annotate obs of fallen fruit as “Fruiting”.

Just to throw a curve ball into this: mushrooms are fruiting bodies, too. So why can’t we annotated fruiting fungi as such? (Not a serious question, just more of a philosophical one.) I think all of iNat’s annotations have to be interpreted through the lens of a public audience less familiar with the scientific definitions of terminology and relying on whatever instructions they can find while discovering/exploring annotations on iNat.


Haha good point. I expect that >98% of iNat observations of fungi would likely be “fruiting” then though (or at least IDable ones), so it would probably be unnecessary.

I don’t have a definition for “fruiting” (at least not one that is worthy of debate). I tend to not use that term since it is vague and contentious. Instead, I treat “fruiting” as a misnomer and use the phrase “with fruit” (or just plain “fruit”) every chance I get. I’ve found that others relate to the noun “fruit” more easily than the verb “fruiting”. The latter is a process that is not easily explained.

(A couple of months ago, I mentioned to my 10-year-old grandson that a “fruit” is a container for seeds. We had fun coming to realize how many “vegetables” were actually “fruits”. Thanks to him, everyone in the household now knows a “fruit” when they see one.)

The hidden tooltips in the iNat user interface support the word “fruit”, not “fruiting”. That’s not surprising since it’s fairly easy to document “fruit” in just a few words.

Numerous people annotate “fruit” in practice, as evidenced by comments in these forums and by actual annotation behavior on observation pages. If a “fruit is visible and still attached to the plant”, the plant is “fruiting” according to iNat. Adding a disagreeing annotation in that case is not helpful.

For most taxa, there are too few photos of plants with fruit. Consequently, the computer vision algorithm has difficulty recognizing such plants. The annotation needs to be simplified so that the concept is better understood by observers and identifiers.

I’ve annotated thousands of flowering plants. Obviously I think it’s something worth doing but it’s frustrating and discouraging to have that work reversed on a whim. I wish it would stop.

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It should still be clearly recognizable as a fruit. Generally speaking that means that persistent seed would not be annotated as fruiting, whereas a persistent husk (which may or may not have dispersed its seeds already) would be tagged as fruiting. Again, this is not perfect, but hopefully most accesible and helpful with identification.

To clarify, are you suggesting that a dehisced fruit with the husk and seed still entact would still be fruiting but without the husk and the seed remaining attached to the pedicel, the plant would no longer be fruiting? What phenological annotation would you add to the Allium tricoccum in the attached photo that was shot in January 2022?