Wild plant moved to a container to avoid being mowed - is it now captive?

I thought I asked this before but I can’t remember and searching didn’t have anything pop up, please feel free to delete or redirect me if possible :)

We recently had some heart leaf groundcherries get planted by birds in the yard of our appartment complex, and the landlord has people come by to mow the yard every now and then, so after we took pictures of the plants in their original locations (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/132161369), we pulled them up to put them in pots instead so that they wouldn’t get mowed down.

(After pulling them up, I realized they’d already been mowed down several times and were regrowing, since the aborted stems with the scars from being cut were still attached).

I’ve been assuming that the moment I move them into a pot they’re now considered captive, but I wanted to make sure, in case I was doing it wrong. The pots are still in the same general area, maybe 50 ft from where the plants were originally growing, since that’s on a hill and there’s nowhere to put the pots.

I think I asked a similar question before, because a bird (I assume, idk what else eats them) planted some yellow pasionflower seeds in one of the plant pots we had on the deck, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have to mark them captive if I moved the pot at all. (obviously, if we moved away and brought the pot with us to somewhere completely different, then they’d be marked captive for sure).

Some of the stems of the plants are still in the ground and regrowing, so while those are still there, could I also take pictures of the ones that are now in pots and mark them with the same location? Heart leaf groundcherry only has 24 observations total (none that are casual because they’re missing photos or data or anything like that), so I thought I’d better ask.

If it matters, the wikipedia does say these plants are annuals, so either way, the new observations would only be for the rest of this year, and then if we collect any seeds and grow our own, those would obviously be marked captive.

Thank you for reading :)

Update: looks like the most agreed answer is that they should be marked captive, so they are! Ty :)

(And yes, I do indeed plan to make more observations for them, to keep track of their rate of flowering and fruiting, and to see when they die back for the winter. I prefer to keep track of plants in my area rather than just making one observation and then never again, since that doesn’t let me track them through the seasons to learn when they do what.)

They should all show up under this link since I gave them all the same tag: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=any&q=heartleafgroundcherrypotted2022&search_on=tags&verifiable=any

Please note that one of them was put in a bucket with yellow passionflower seedings - those seedlings are wild, a bird pooped them out right in the container, we haven’t done anything with them except for when I removed the invasive nettle thing whose name I just forgot. They don’t get any water except for the rain, and I don’t bother fertilizing my plants in the first place.

This thread may help. I think if you’ve potted it, is classes as being cultivated?



haha, looks like I opened a can of worms with this question, people have been asking variations of it a lot…


It would at least very likely affect the DQA-- if you moved it at all, the location would no longer be correct. Unless, of course, you marked the location as something broad, like if you just put the city you found them in as the location, and they only moved like 50ft.

I don’t see why it would be classified as cultivated (it innately does not make sense to me that one individual could be wild at one point but cultivated at another point), but apparently other people have different takes. My understanding is that an individual cannot move between categories, but that cultivated plants can reproduce into the wild and create a 2nd generation of ‘wild’ plants-- being able to reproduce is what allows it to change. Human movement isn’t enough on its own, and seems like a pretty arbitrary factor in determining which category it should be in. I could see a case for it if someone took something and replanted it far away, but if something gets moved by a few feet… I don’t know, it just seems like nitpicking to me. I can see why it’s a little bit tricky though.


hmmm, yeah it does seem pretty nitpicky. I think for now I’ll upload them normally, and if someone really thinks they should be marked captive then they can mark them as such.


I think it is a small matter. When the picture is taken, if the plant is asumed to be a wild plant, then it is a wild plant. Sound judgment is needed ofcourse. After the plant is relocated into a pot, then it is not a wild plant anymore. There is no need to worry about whether to change the status of the plant after that. because I think the date is for the time the picture is taken. There is no need to go back to some past records and change the status.


I don´t agree.
Of course individuals can change between categories.
In animals this is quite obvious, as e.g. my two once feral, now pet dogs next to me on the couch vividly show.
But the same can be true for plants. A plant appearing and growing somewhere else naturally is wild. But if you start to tend to this plant, fencing it against harm, watering it, putting it in different (more sunny or shady) locations then you are a direct influence on this individual (which the aim to be exactly that) and might influence it´s ability to grow, flower, reproduce, survive…


I agree, individual organisms can certainly change between wild and captive/cultivated. The iNat guidelines offer some guidance on this. For instance, feral cats and dogs are wild, even if they were initially born under human care (ie, in captivity).

Likewise, a “butterfly mounted in a display case and not appropriately marked with date and location of original collection” is captive. The butterfly was once wild, but is now a captive specimen (if its location is as collected).

The major determinant of wild/captive is whether or not an organism is in a situation it intended to be in (wild) or a human intended it to be in (captive).

In the case laid out here, I think captive is most appropriate if the observations are made at a time and place where the plant is in a pot. The plant is not in the same location or situation that it naturally occurred in. It is now in a situation where it is in a location that a human intended (a pot), and under human care. If the organism had remained in its original location, it might have died from mowing, so the human intention here is materially affecting the status of the organism. If the observation was given the time and place of the original collection (in the lawn) even if the picture is in the pot, then it would be wild.


The arguments here are philosophical and border on lawyerly, if there was a legal reason to determine wild vs captive. For practical purposes I think you can define it as you wish if it’s a borderline case. I’d call any organism that was wild and then moved into new or temporary captivity a wild specimen.


It’s clearly a borderline case and I think, since it’s not been moved (far), it doesn’t much matter either way. In this instance, moving it into a pot is not a great deal different from putting a fence around it and a sign saying BE CAREFUL OF THE RARE PLANTS (which most people would presumably not consider cultivation). That said, if now that it is in a pot, it is being provided with ongoing human care (regular watering etc) then I think I would err on the side of considering it captive.

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A can of worms would be captive until it is opened and the escaping worms could then be considered wild.


I don’t get the creation of such edge cases, why not just observe it before any action on that lawn and never after? You aren’t going to observe the same plant for 20 times later, are you?


Here is a case of a wild observation followed by subsequent captive observations, which may be useful for this case.

The trick is to follow @pfau_tarleton’s excellent instructions: Linking multiple observations of the same individual over time, which is basically add a “Similar observation set” field to all observations set to the observation number of the first.

This takes care of these edge cases nicely, would even allow things like:

  1. Find a wild plant (wild)
  2. Rescue and grow it (captive)
  3. Replant it elsewhere (wild)
  4. Grow a clone from cutting (captive)

All related together with “Similar observation set”.

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The organism replanted elsewhere would still be cultivated however. As per the guidelines a “tree planted 1, 10, or 100 years ago by humans” is captive/cultivated.


Looking at your iNat record which led to your question, I see no reason why your record would not be considered wild. They’re clearly wild in your photos.

This seems similar to our previous plant rescue discussion.


I agree that the original record/observation is definitely wild. However, OP asked about making future observations of the same individual plants put in pots after the original observation was made. These new observations should be captive at that point.

The suggestion to use linked observations in the thread that @annkatrinrose posted is a good one, as the subsequent observations can point to the original wild one.

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Agreed. The morphology and phenology of a plant can certainly change once it’s potted and thus shouldn’t be considered wild. It’s debatable but I suppose there’s a brief period after the plant is potted where you could still call it wild … similar to an animal that was just caught and is temporarily held for photos before it’s released (or becomes a long term captive pet).

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Sure, within a few days is fine, and maybe even longer if the plant is functionally the same. I agree phenology would be a big one to worry about with photos taken farther from the date of collection. I know that this idea has come up with animals before, ie rearing caterpillars - once a significant life history characteristic of an organism changes (like pupating), further observations listed as wild could cause problems.

That’s what I was planning, yes, to track the progress of it fruiting and flowering, and to see when it dies back from the cold.