Why is this Observation Casual/Needs ID/Research Grade? - "Official" Topic

You’re the cautious observer, but many new and even old users are easily convienced into thinking ornamentals are wild. If we went only by observers’ ideas we would have this huge “unmarked cultivated” problem much bigger than now, people really think straight rows of trees near roads grow there naturally, so we can’t just not mark others’ observations, that’s a big part of what people do as many users don’t care/know about rules. You can check what each school assignment turns into.
I’d say checking what casual observations you have regularly can be very useful: there could be a wrong automated vote or misclick, so even without misunderstanding observation can be set to cultivated.


I had a look through your observations and it looks like several of them were just automatically marked by the iNat system - if almost all plants of a particular species in a given area are marked captive, iNat will automatically mark new uploads of that species in that area as such. If you observe a garden plant escaping into the wild, go back to the observation after you’ve posted it and thumbs-up the “organism is wild” thingy at the bottom of the page.


You can always check to see if it was the iNaturalist automatic algorithm instead of a real person. The system marks some species captive instantly if certain conditions are met.

Edit: sorry I didn’t see that graysquirrel had already said this.


Usually I carefully mark native plants that are being given supplemental water in a garden “captive - not wild,” but in the case of my observations today that causes a problem for getting the identification of the wild galls on the plant. Unless you have access to a major science library and serious microscopes, identifying the gall former without knowing the host plant species is often impossible. I know the plants the galls were on are in the genus Pistacia, but which of the three possible species in this area, I don’t know. As far as I can tell, casual observations don’t get seen by anyone unless they uncheck the default “verifiable” box on the search filter. Hence, my plant is very unlikely to ever be identified. In this case I am in a foreign (to me) country and don’t have access to the usual non-iNat resources I routinely use. Since gall observations are recently popular on iNat I think more and more people will run into this issue. I know it’s a building block, but I wonder if “verifiable” could be expanded to include cultivated natives that meet the other three criteria, but not be allowed research grade status? Just curious what the community thinks or if others are encountering similar issues.


See https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/make-captive-cultivated-not-automatically-no-id-needed/112/49

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I marked the Yes, it can be improved because I have learned that there are always people who know more, and may be able to add a finer ID. When an observation becomes casual it is basically dead, and won’t be seen by many, or possibly any, people. I also believe that the standard on iNat is not to use this option unless you are very sure that the ID can’t be improved. I have seen very few cases where this proves to be true, and this option is often used to prevent other identifications from changing what a user has decided is correct. I don’t believe it should be used in this way.


I saw that thread and there are others as well. What I have added to the equation is a specific example of why the ID for a native cultivated plant is important in order to get the ID for a native wild specialist on that plant. What I don’t like is that a high quality observation of a native plant will not get an ID because it is getting some supplemental water and may be growing in an urban area or slightly beyond it’s present range. I totally understand that one shouldn’t rank it “research grade,” that’s not the issue, as many other threads have noted, and which many responders don’t seem to grasp. The issue is that by being honest and checking “not wild” as I do per the iNat definition of not wild, I also condemn the observation to never being seen by anyone, and not getting the ID I may need to identify the wild species using that plant as host.

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There’re users you can tag on those observations for now.

The iNat definition changed for plants to just make captive/cultivate = “not planted”

So this:

would be considered wild.

I know because I am one of those people who believes that currently maintained by humans (supplemental watering, pruning, treated for pests, incorporated into lanscaping but present before the land was built on, etc) should be considered “cultivated” regardles of origin, but iNat changed the wording on the help page to specify origin, so I don’t mark those “not wild” anymore.

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But this implies it was planted?

Or a wild plant that was simply seeded from a cultivated one.

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I agree with you that they should be considered cultivated because they will throw off distribution maps. I just wish there was a way to keep them out of the casual bin and get identifications confirmed or suggested if that plant happens to serve as host to native specialists, whether they be insect or fungi.

In your first message you mention they were watered, but is it all that happens? If they just get water when other plants being watered, that’s not enough to call them cultivated.

I’d argue that watering could be enough when you live in drought-prone areas.

Wild natives adapted for such areas don’t all survive in such areas, especially during extreme or prolonged drought, but when those same natives get incorporated into a landscaped area, their survival chances are greatly increased just by being watered semiregularily.


If there’s no direct watering of those plants it doesn’t count, many plants win from living near humans and that is one of examples why.

I was giving an example to support a general case. I am not concerned about the specific example since I have come across many situations where a plant is surviving outside its normal range for many possible reasons. What I am concerned about is that a plant that does not pass the “verifiable” test because we deem it to be not wild will not get an ID. And not getting that ID will potentially impact the identification of other wild observations such as wild gall formers that happen to gall that plant. As gall observations explode on iNaturalist over the past couple of years, this is becoming a more common dilemma.

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Items incorporated into landscaping would be directly watered.

That’s why I specified “landscaping”. I’m not talking about a grazing pasture that had some trees spared when the field was cleared. I’m thinking about scenarios like a tree was left on a suburban lot where a house was built, and now is part of the front lawn that gets watered.

I’ve visited many windmill livestock watering sites in the arid Southwest US where wetland plants and water-dependent animals thrive. If the rancher wasn’t pumping groundwater that community would not exist. Although human-supported, this community is not cultivated or planted and I call its organisms wild.


I’d agree; that’s why in my post above I specified lawns as opposed to ranchland type scenarios.

Let’s try to keep this topic on track - it’s for posting specific examples of observations that have a data quality grade which the poster doesn’t understand or think is correct.