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

I’m curious what phenological annotation, if any, others would add to this photo of Allium tricoccum? It was observed on July 25, 2022.

Personally (and this may not match everyone’s interpretation), I decided at some point that I would consider the seed dispersal phase as part of iNat’s “fruiting” definition. Hence, I would count the first one with the seeds still attached to the plant as fruiting since there are still seeds to disperse. (Second one looks like dried up flower buds?) Here’s an example for a plant I would then no longer consider “fruiting” since all the seeds are gone (and I made a note about that on the observation).

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I think adding such a notation to fungi would be functionally fairly pointless, since almost all fungi observations are of the fruiting body, outside of the occasional picture of Armillaria rhizomorphs or cultured fungi on an agar plate.

I think there’s far more useful annotations that could be added for fungi (substrate type, nearby trees, taste, etc come to mind) but most of that can be handled pretty easily in observation fields.

EDIT: a field for observations that include microscopy might actually be really useful

I checked and it looks like there’s already an available field called “Microscopy inlcuded?” that could work for noting if photos of microscopic features were included in an observation.

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Yeah, there’s a huge pile of observation fields that get used for fungi. Just not really annotations. there’s not really that big of a difference, functionally, since you can use either as a filter

Yes, those are dried up flower buds. I added the photo in this thread this morning because I was oddly thinking that this thread is about when to apply phenological annotations in general. It does have some relevance to this discussion, though, because if one considers them to be budding or not should, in my view, be consistent with if they consider past-mature fruit or dry, partial fruit organs to be fruiting or not. Since these flower buds will not flower, I do not consider them to be budding; there is nothing active about them in terms of further growth toward flowering and then fruiting.

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I would hesitate to agree to such a principle since it is so context & species-dependent. The general idea is asking yourself if the average person that is not familiar with this species would think there is fruit on the plant. This observation exemplifies perfectly where the current annotation system, and therefore my “system” as well, falls short. Since the seed in the first picture looks a lot like a berry, I think most would think it’s the plant’s fruit, so I would mark it as fruiting (or more likely leave it empty). Knowing that it’s really just the persistent seed requires some knowledge about this plant’s specific pattern of maturation.

I agree. However much we discuss the finer points of botanical terminology, at the end of the day, it’s the interpretation the average iNat user is likely to attach to the annotation that’s going to have most weight. And I admit that, although I have an above average knowledge of such things, if I was on an annotation spree and saw the photo of the Allium tricoccum, I would most probably annotate it as “fruiting” without giving it much thought.

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I am not a botanist, but I for iNat I think it’s clear that a plant should be considered “fruiting” if it has an emerging or mature fruit. Fruiting answers the question “is there fruit in the observation?”.


This is a tough one! I’m not entirely consistent in how I use the annotation. I embody most of the positions expressed here!

In general, I call a plant “fruiting” if I can see the fruit. What about fruit hanging on after it “should” have fallen? I probably mark it “fruiting,” sometimes cringing because I know that may mess up somebody’s phenology study. Some species, e.g. the roses in my area, hold their fruit for most of the winter and should be marked fruiting all that time, I think, though they’re no longer actively making a fruit after late summer. One of our sedges (Carex obnupta) holds its fruit all winter for dispersal on spring floods, so fruiting can overlap with flowering.

What about fruit on the ground? If it looks fresh, I have no problem with marking the observation as fruiting. Odds are there’s more fruit on the plant. I’m happy to mark Maclura pomifera (Osage Orange, with many other common names) as fruiting for a photo of the odd fruit in the hands of an enthused or mystified person. If the fruit is old . . . I probably shouldn’t mark it fruiting, though no doubt sometimes I do.

I have problems at the other end of the fruiting season. Grasses are producing fruit after flowering but since the flower is hidden in bracts, so you can’t see it. You never do see the fruit (caryopsis) except in dehulled grains (human artifacts). If you miss the exact time of flowering, it’s hard to tell a grass in late bud from one that’s fruiting. I try to restrict “flowering” to the times when anthers and/or stigmas stick out, but that can be a short window. Should I not mark it’s phenology when the plant is clearly somewhere on the flowering/fruiting spectrum? Should I mark it fruiting when I think flowering is past (but I might be wrong)? Should I wait to mark it “fruiting” until the glumes and lemmas are dying? In many species, the fruit immediately falls, leaving empty glumes, so waiting would make it easy to miss the “fruiting” season completely. I keep changing my mind, but I do think marking phenology is important. Sigh.


I really do appreciate the answers received thus far. I was hoping I might be doing (more-or-less) what others are doing, and that seems to be the case. However, one of my main questions has been so far overlooked: When would you be inclined to add a disagreeing annotation?

Earlier in this thread, there’s a photo of Allium tricoccum observed in January. If someone else were to add the annotation “fruiting” to this observation, would you be inclined to add a disagreeing annotation? If you don’t know enough about the species to answer the question, feel free to substitute any species you do know about.

Please choose your words carefully. If enough people disagree with the disagreeing annotation scenario described here, I will ask the user to stop and use this thread as evidence.

Very occasionally someone mistakes fat flower buds for fruit, or young green fruit for flower buds. Then I’ll disagree. If it is just a matter of them applying one of the phenology terms slightly differently than I do, I’ll usually just ignore that.


I would only disagree with an annotation only if I thought the annotator misinterpreted which plant part they are seeing AND there is a more fitting annotation available. For example, if someone mistakes a flower bud for a fruit, I would disagree and suggest the ‘flower budding’ annotation instead, but if someone annotates a persistent seed/husk as ‘fruiting’ I would leave the annotation be because there is no better option.

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There are several « official documentations » on « fruiting » and more generally on phenology annotation, especially for crops, such as BBCH scale (e.g. potato, pea, citrus, etc.), or for cereals: BBCH scale for cereals, Feekes scale for cereals, Zadoks scale for cereals.

Well, they are all much more complicated than just flower budding/flowering/fruiting/no evidence of flowering.

I think that any researcher who wants to use the data for phenology tracking wouldn’t use the annotations, but would develop their own scale (in a project) for scientific accuracy.

Relevant to this discussion, when mentioned by another user, I just noticed this ‘Proposal to replace the Plant Phenology annotation’ of @trscavo 's at https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/86366-proposal-to-replace-the-plant-phenology-annotation#activity_comment_2cede084-7e40-4422-9cec-25dbed647040 .

Thank you, @gijsroaming , for bringing the proposal and discussion to my attention.

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Although ‘fruiting’ is a verb, like flowering and flower budding, which makes it pretty clear to this non-botanist, citizen scientist, that these are developmental processes with observable beginnings and endings that can overlap where there are 2 or more developing flowers and fruits, I realize in this discussion that the addition of the “ing” suffix to each of those phenological phases doesn’t lead some other users to a similar understanding.

Clearing up the definition for me, and changing my understanding a little, of the definition of fruiting is the wording about the fruiting by the USA National Phenology Network in its document, 'Phenophase Primer for Plants: Understanding Plant Phenophases for Nature’s Notebook (
June 2017 DRAFT
USA-NPN Education & Engagement Series 2016-002) available for download (at the time of my posting this comment) at https://www.usanpn.org/files/npn/reports/USA-NPN-PhenophasePrimer_Section1-June2017.pdf. Particularly helpful was the following:
"When to stop reporting “yes” for the “Ripe
fruit” phenophase

The initial step would be to determine if the lingering fruits on the plant have dropped all their seeds or had their seeds removed—leaving empty hulls, capsules, pods, or skins and rinds of fleshy fruits (Images 1, 2, 5, 7, 8). If seeds are no longer present, the fruits are no longer viable and the observer should report “no” for “Fruits” and “Ripe fruits”. For species such as those in rows 2-3, persistent, seedless, old fruit might be present along with fresh fl owers and new fruit (Images 5 and 3, respectively), and sometimes remain on the plant well into the next season (Image 8). In tall plants, if fruits are too high to be inspected, the observer will have to report “?” for these phenophases once they suspect the seeds might have dropped or been removed from the fruits.

But what of those persistent fruits still holding onto their seeds? For capsules and pods, the drier fruits, that retain seeds, the observer should continue to report “yes” for the “Fruits” and “Ripe fruits” phenophases until all the seeds have been removed from the plant.

And what of fleshy fruits, such as berries and rose hips, that remain on the plant and begin deteriorating with no clear endpoint for reporting “yes”? It depends. An observer might think about it from an animal’s or bird’s perspective:

Continue to report “yes” for “Fruits” and “Ripe fruits” as long as these fruits seem plump, edible and appealing to wildlife (Images 9-10).

But—when the fruits begin to dry up and deteriorate, it is questionable whether to consider them as “Fruits” and “Ripe fruits”. Once they seem inedible or unappealing to wildlife (Image 11), report “no” for these phenophases and place a note in the comments section that deteriorated fruit persists on the plant" (p78; emphasis mine).

Using that definition of fruiting, or ‘“Fruits” and “Ripe fruits,”’ when selecting a phenological annotation, following is an example of Allium tricoccum I now consider to still be in the fruiting stage and to be past the phase with its having dehisced fruit. The ripe fruit is not really fruiting in my understanding of the word as a verb but the whole fruit with its fleshy part remains. See https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/186205016 .


At present, all disagreeing (or agreeing) with an annotation does is put a mark next to the thumbs down/thumbs up buttons. It does not negate the annotation or prevent it from showing up in the corresponding searches.

So disagreeing is mostly of symbolic significance and does not have any meaningful practical effect.

If it is a question of differing interpretations of the annotation value (what is meant by “fruiting”) I therefore won’t generally bother to disagree. If it is objectively wrong (e.g., incorrect sex for an organism) I will both disagree and leave a comment for the observer/annotator asking them to change it.

Thanks. I do pretty much the same thing as you. Sometimes I’ll leave a comment if the annotation is unexpected…oftentimes there’s something new to learn in situations like that. Initially I was annoyed to see the disagreeing annotations but I’m over it now :-)

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