Why is "no evidence of flowering" included in the chart?

It should be marked as to what is occurring at the time of the observation, not what occurred in the past or what will occur in the future.
I think most people don’t understand that « no evidence of flowering » is not a phenophase. It merely indicates that none of the other choices are present.

For people who routinely mark annotations for a particular taxa, they can filter for obs “without annotation”. If you didn’t have « no evidence of flowering », then every time you search for obs that have no annotation, you would continually have to review the same observations over and over. If I remember correctly that is the reason for the original request to add « no evidence of flowering »

Perhaps it should have been called “none of the above”.


That was April 2020

I approach this with @annkatrinrose less about the phenology of when it flowers / fruits and more about using the available taxon pictures to identify which flower / fruit. Fresh green berries, ripening to vibrant colours, then fading to sludge = it is all fruit.
Phenology would probably to prefer to split apart the 3 stages.

(And we would love to be able to annotate only the pictures which actually show the fruit)

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I have to agree that old flower heads and seed pods are evidence of flowering and fruiting. But these annotations are under the heading Plant phenology so that is clearly what they are meant to describe, not that the plant has flowered in the past. If the wording was changed to “Not in flower or in fruit”, would that settle it? The annotation for in bud seems a harder one to use consistently, given that many plants have buds all year round. My apple trees will have flower buds on them now, but I won’t see which buds are flower buds until the spring. Maybe the bud annotation should say something on the lines of “Flower buds expanding”.


Then expect claims like “The plant is flowering, you see the base on the floral stem near these leaves” “- Yes but we lack evidence, flowers are nowhere to be seen on the pics, it could have been cut, or be abortive, or dried/fruiting already” etc. etc.

Gray areas are another issue (or is it?). More strict vs. more relaxed approaches to the annotation thing can have their merits.

Thanks to everyone who responded, I really appreciate it.

Reading the replies, the majority of people believe the “no evidence of flowering” value should be included on the chart, and that’s okay. For what it’s worth, I disagree with that conclusion for the following reason: “no evidence of flowering” is a negative trait while the other annotation values are positive traits. Conceptually, the negative trait obscures the positive traits. For clarity, only positive traits should be included on the time chart (or so I claim).

I double-checked the annotations shown in the chart. It turns out I added all (but one) of the “no evidence of flowering” values, so in that sense, I’m to blame :-) I will probably not apply that value during future annotation sprees.

I’m surprised that folks still interpret “no evidence of flowering” differently since the tooltip definition is reasonably clear: Media provides no evidence of reproductive structures. Staff have confirmed the previous definition in other discussion threads.

I’ve written this elsewhere but the Plant Phenology annotation may be interpreted as follows:

  • Evidence of flowering?
    • No
    • Yes
      • Budding?
      • Flowering?
      • Fruiting?
      • Other

Unfortunately, the implementation does not permit “other” so there are many observations that simply can not be annotated.


The persistent disagreement about what “no evidence of flowering” means suggests a need to clarify the wording. I know I have been confused about how to deal with last years old fruiting structures! How about, “no evidence of current flowering/fruiting”?


Just to clarify my intentions here – I think “no evidence of flowering” is a useful annotation! I just think it could usefully be clarified a bit.

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What about that pixellated backlit pic of a majestic Agave doing some reproductive thing in the distance? even after intense pixel peeping you can’t really tell whether it bears buds, flowers, or fruits - however checking all three would be “wrong” (“can’t tell” is not the same as “all three simultaneously”)… How to check “Yes” to imply it is (or perhaps has been) reproducing?

When does this last, sad, dry Rosa fruit hanging from its twig is considered “no longer current”? :sleepy:

This annotation option in my head should be the root default for all observations, unless selected otherwise. But I can see why this could be a problem if people aren’t on top of annotations, for instance flowering examples that are more recently posted being unannotated (and thus, assumed by default to be “non-flowering”) among the rest of the data. But at the end of the day, annotations only work if a majority of observations are annotated anyway, so I don’t think that’s a problem.


Or, when is the last, sad, dry Ribes fruit hanging from its twig considered “no longer currant”?


When it’s a gooseberry :grin:


I get what you all are saying and I agree this needs clarification, especially as there also appears to be a disconnect between the original intent and how it is being applied by annotators. Maybe those who requested the “no evidence” option can chime in? The original intent appears to have been to use “no evidence of flowering” for observations that show only vegetative parts:

I think part of the problem is that “no evidence” is more of a DQA thing (as in: no pictures provided that show reproductive parts) vs. an actual phenophase like budding, flowering, and fruiting. So there are two concepts smushed together into this annotation, which leads to confusion.

That’s basically how I understand it, too. I rarely add the “no evidence” annotation at all since I don’t find it all that useful personally. However, some people expect to be able to fit all Angiosperm observations into one or more of these categories and don’t like to leave things non-annotated. Hence “no evidence” is also being used for “other” in this key, which as I said before seems illogical to me. It kind of feels like polyphyletic lumping to me.

The problem is unless it is your own observation you can’t select otherwise once it is on there, because “no evidence of flowering” is mutually exclusive of the others. Once it is selected, none of the other options are available any more. The only thing you can do is put a thumbs-down vote next to it and make a comment on the observation that you think the annotation is wrong. There are some feature requests to make annotations correctable and to apply community consensus to annotations.

Speaking of feature requests and to get back to the original topic of this thread (why is “no evidence” included in the chart): Since this annotation seems valuable to at least some of the community using it, but others feel it adds visual clutter, could this be addressed by being able to hide specific annotations? It’s already possible to hide observations with no annotations from the graph:


Absolutely! As someone who has annotated thousands of observations of angiosperms, this would save me lots of time as I’d only have to annotate the relatively few observations that show flowers, buds and/or fruits. Currently I use “No evidence of flowering” as a catch-all for observations that don’t display the aforementioned features. While rare, exceptions like dried up catkins on Quercus (which are evidence of past but not current flowering) have me stumped. See Case #1 and Case #2

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Why do you need to annotate all obs?

I use fruiting mostly.
Flower budding if the obs focuses on that (not including flowers and fruit)

And flowering only for my own obs, because I feel ‘most’ obs of flowering plants are observed because they have flowers on show.

As someone who sometimes searches for photos of plants outside of their various reproductive phases […] I’d hate to stumble upon dry flowers or moldy berries deemed “not current” enough :innocent:
To some people, the few weeks between the first sign of green leaves and the first sign of a flowering stem… do matter. When it comes to eating tubers for instance :yum:

Part of the issue could stem from the fact that despite unambiguous phrasing (“phenology”), it is easier/faster to annotate observations based solely on organs visible, irrespective of their freshness… It might even be a deliberate -if misguided- step, so as to allow fellow iNatters to soothe that fundamental torment of human being since the dawn of time: “what does currant look like outside of the flowering/fruiting season?

Some years plants flower and other years the same ones don’t. That seems to me to be something worth noting. I don’t note it very often but I observe some clumps of Allium tricoccum annually. Here is an example of one that flowered in the previous year but showed no sign that it would be flowering this year (no scape development): https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/162332421 .


I found this curious, too, and looked at a couple of observations to get a better idea. My interpretation is that the “no evidence of flowering” peak in fall contains a lot of plants showing fall color. This illustrates that there are some leaf-related phenology stages that are eye-catching to observers wishing to know what plant that is.


I was looking through all my old (early 2000s) photos last month and adding locations based on my gps logs, written journal and notes so that I could upload them to iNat. Until I joined iNat I would say more than 99% of my plant photos are only when flowering or fruiting unless I encountered something very rare or unusual. Of the ones that I uploaded from that period none that I can see are not flowering or fruiting. As far as I can recall I didn’t actively avoid things that were not flowering or fruiting but I treated my photos as if they were voucher specimens and for some reason felt they were less valuable without fertile material. I’ve changed my mind and take photos of plants without flowers/fruit now


As long as there are scientific types on here, it will never be clear enough; we can always find the edge cases, as the numerous threads on niche applications of captive vs. wild show. Or for that matter, the comment about an “other” category of evidence of flowering that is neither bud, nor flower, nor fruit – I’m trying to imagine what that could even be, although I’m sure it was obvious to the one who made the comment.

I annotate all obs for… completionism. I love watching the Phenology graphs fill with colours as I annotate more and more obs. “No evidence of flowering” helps to exclude obs I’ve already seen with the “Without annotation” filter