Where are all the plant lovers?

Almost all of my plant submissions are still lacking any confirmation IDs, which makes me wonder if iNat is mostly for bird and mammal research. Should I simply not upload them and be content with my other submissions? It happens a lot with insects, too.


It likely depends on where you live. In my state, we have a few dedicated plant identifiers. Additionally, if I’m fairly confident in my own ID, I don’t personally feel slighted by a lack of confirming ID. I just figure I took the trouble to research and other people are sticking with what they know.

You might be the person in your area that confirms for other people. :-)


The problem is unfortunately the relation to observations uploaded to active identifiers… I imagine that at least regionally plants get obersved quite a lot (as they are often easiest to photograph) and plant identifiers have a lot to do… it´s basically impossible to keep up with new incoming observations.

What can one do about it? Try to get into indentifying yourself… maybe there are some species you are already comfortable to ID yourself… the more easy species get identified by people, the more time experts of their fields have for the other unidentified observations…


From another thread on the subject (I haven’t updated the numbers, but point stands):

  • Aves have 6.36:1 observer to identifier ratio
  • Actinopterygii 5.46:1
  • Insecta 9:43:1
  • Magnoliopsida 11.17:1

Directly addressing the original question, I’ve contributed 90,200 plant IDs and 885 of my plant observations are ‘Needs ID’ - plenty of patience is required :slightly_smiling_face:


Almost 100% of your plant observations are a single close-up photograph of a flower/flowering spike. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to either confirm your ID or add a more refining one, as many plant taxa are identified or differentiated from others by non-floral characters, e.g., presence of hairs/hair type, leaf shape, or leaf position among many. A good practice is to try and take photos of all the characters that you see with each plant (a leaf, both sides, stem, growth habit, flower, sepals, bark, fruit, etc), and that will likely increase the chances of being IDed


See this FAQ: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#whynoid


iNat is also a social network. See if you can find someone in your area to make friends with.

I made a project for my social group to make it easier to keep up with everyone’s observations. We help each other out a lot. We currently have 77% of our plant IDs at Research Grade.


That’s a great suggestion. Although I’m no botanist, I know a few of our local flora pretty well by now, if I were to spend some time “exploring” and IDing the ones I am sure of, it WOULD free up the Plant People to work on the more difficult ones :)


Ditto thebeachcomber’s comments! When identifying plants, I am almost always looking at the leaves to help inform the ID. The more features of the plant you can show, the better!


Examples which may occur in your observation area(s) where flowers look very similar and where additional photos would be needed (as @thebeachcomber recommends):

There’s also ones like Prickly Pears (Opuntia) and Cryptantha which are hard to ID to species-level and are only likely to get confirmed at Genus-level.


Definitely upload them, but the bug and bird IDs definitely come in much quicker.
Overall, only about half of my observations are research grade personally.
Fungi’s even further behind, and not because they’re all unidentifiable or anything, although some are.
Generally when I want people to look at my plant observations to confirm/deny I tend to work on IDing other people’s easy to ID stuff in the area that I know well, so that people identifying in my area are more likely to find mine without their time being used on beginner stuff if you know what I mean.


Yes! Be the plant person you wish to see in the world!

lol but seriously it’s a good way to help other people and enrich your local iNat community :wink:
Edit: I should note that one should get some good experience with plant ID first and it’s way harder to teach yourself than to have other people helping, but I suppose my above point still stands.


Absolutely. It can be hard to figure out which species require what photos for a good species (or even genus) ID!

My tip would be to get at least a flower front and side view, a view of a leaf or two, and then an overall photo. That usually shows enough to get most common plants to species. You will eventually figure out through trial and error which plants might need several shots and which could just do with one or two.

For plants that might need more particular characteristics for ID, I would recommend using the Explore tool to find research-grade observations of the plant group in question (I sort by favorites) and read through conversations/explanations that previous identifiers/observers have made. Or you could ask directly—identifiers always love to share their knowledge to willing ears ;)

More plant observation tips here


Less than 4 in 10 of my plant observations are Research Grade. I’m one of the main plant identifiers for my area, so it’s difficult to get research grade ideas.
I can give my best advice if you need help, but I’m not an expert and I don’t know all plants.


We’re out there, I promise you!

As someone with 381,620 plant IDs under their belt currently, I may be able to provide you with some insight.

I had a look at your profile, and it looks like you take very nice, crisp, in-focus pictures, which is awesome. But some of them are very zoomed-in and don’t show much of the plant beyond the flower itself, which can sometimes provide surprisingly few identification clues.

The close-ups are very useful, don’t get me wrong, but adding a few more pictures to each observation would be super helpful.

Ideally, you’d have a photo showing the entire plant, to see its overall shape and growth habit, a picture showing the leaves, and one showing the area where the flower attaches to its stem - that’s usually very important for aster-family plants especially.

You’ve also observed some groups that are just really hard to ID in general. Lupines, for example - there’s a million species, they’re all pretty variable, and sometimes it comes down to something ridiculous like having to peel off petals and see if the inner flower parts have tiny hairs on one particular area or not.

Cryptantha / plagiobothrys are often identified by the seeds, so finding some mature ones and shaking the seeds out for a super closeup is useful there.


Be patient – plants are much more diverse and fewer people are good at identifying them than people sometimes expect.

Also, provide more clues so we can identify your plant photos – follow recommendations from @graysquirrel

It helps, too, if you identify some observations for others, because some of them (not all!) will reciprocate by identifying some of yours. It takes time to build up that kind of following, though, so once again, be patient.


I have 3524 plant observations (I basically only observe plants) and 2658 of those are research grade, so more than 75% were identified by someone. So yes, the plant identifiers are out there!

Having said that, I can confirm all the things others have said - sometimes it takes a while, but most of my observations get identified within a year. If you don’t have enough pictures to identify to species, the observations tends to get ignored, or only get a single genus id which leaves it as “needs id” indefinitely. The more pictures the better really, I hate driving home and trying to id my pictures just to realize there’s three species which look exactly identical except for the type of hair on the underside of the leaf and of course my leaf underside picture is blurry and you can’t see if there’s hair…

And finally, location does matter a lot - I’m lucky to have most of my observations in one of two regions each of which has 2 or 3 botanists going through every plant observation that gets posted in their area. So I know for a fact whatever I post they will take a look, especially if it’s a rare plant - and they’ll sometimes even tell me that I forgot the leaf underside picture necessary to id… :)

Also plants are really hard to id, whenever I think I know a species well enough that I can id someone else’s pictures - I immediately get humbled and realize that I have no idea what’s in other people’s pictures. (Except maybe with northern orchids, but unlike all other plant families those all get identified within hours so there’s never anything left for me to id…)


For some plants, I’m just content to leave them at genus. Tradescantia and Sisyrinchium are good examples. I’m just content that I got it to genus, and just to know what it is :relieved:

However if there is a feasible way to identify some of those “impossible” taxa and someone tells me, I jump on the bandwagon! Even if I don’t get it enough to ID confidently to species I can at least appreciate the diversity of species.

For the average user, I wouldn’t sweat over the plants that need really specific little details that need to be captured. If you got it to genus or below family, that’s great! Maybe in the future someone might be able to ID it. For now, just be content having seen a cool plant :wink:

If you do get to a level where you want to tackle some of those “impossible” taxa, then you will be at a point where there will be plenty of help and resources to get you there.


I mean… it is an entire Plant kingdom, while mammals, reptiles, butterflies and even general insects are just subsections under the Animal kingdom. It’s the diversity of plants that make them cool too :sunglasses:


Don’t sell yourself short! I see 418,870

Also, wow! That’s so many IDs!!