"Wild" vs. "planted" vs. "naturalized"

Yes, I agree with you about established meaning simply able to persist and reproduce. To me, naturalised implies the species has become a part of an assemblage of mainly native flora or fauna to the extent it passes for a native species. So I wouldn’t call an invasive plant that forms monocultures naturalised. A good example of naturalised in UK would be the snake’s head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris, which has long been considered a rare native plant of wet meadows and has nature reserves devoted to it, but in the last decade or so botanists have decided it is an ancient garden escape.

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It is wild according to iNat’s definition. End of story.

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Maybe for now if you are aware whether the species is naturalized or not adding it in the comment section would be helpful? I think for research purposes it would be important to know whether a certain pant species is naturalized in that particular area.

I agree. Maybe people posting it might not designate it as invasive but those of us identifying it can? If the designation was available. I have commented whether a species is invasive or not when identifying. I think it is helpful and important.

this isn’t how naturalized is defined in ecology. Invasive plants are indeed naturalized by the definition ecologists use. It isn’t the same as the plant fitting into the local ecology and acting like a native plant. We know that this happens eventually, in some cases, but i am not sure we actually have many examples of it in practice


This is more-or-less my thought process in terms of treating “iNat countability”.

Some important notes:
-just because a species is native, does not mean it is wild.
-species persisting from planting do not become wild, they are always planted.
-restoration sites are a big grey area but technically are not wild plants.
-not all plants have obvious origins. Use your best judgement based on the circumstances and ecology of the species to make the right call.


this is great and matches my thoughts too

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Great! I’ve had to explain it in text so many times, and it’s never straightforward. So hopefully this helps some folks.

It’s about as unbiased as possible. Personally, I find the distinction between “wild” and “naturalized” is pretty marginal. It just refers to whether the species naturally occurs at the given location or not. Even native species might become naturalized in another part of the state or county that they aren’t originally from.


It’s also really hard to use, there’re tons of plants that traveled with humans around Europe (and knowing how even a thousand years ago one person could walk through multiple countries in a couple of years), so you really can have little idea if they originated where they’re found now, withut studying it, and many sp. called native to the region on iNat are actually not that native, but then there’s a question of how many years ago is enough to be called natural expansion.

It doesn’t really distinguish on whether the species you are trying to classify is native or not. Only the recent provenance. If you have any examples that still seem confusing or hard to classify, let me know.

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Well, I have little idea about naturalized term overall, other than what people wrote here, which is controversial at times, if it’s only about recent “newcomers”, then it kinda simplifies it, but really, if it is here for 300 years only, isn’t it naturalized too?

Well, naturalized implies that a species was not known before a clear point of human-aided introduction. And yes, some species have been around for hundreds of years, from an original introduction. But if that introduction is known, regardless of how long ago it was, that species is not native. It’s still considered naturalized.

The catch? If a species was not recorded to be introduced, there’s really nothing you can do but give it benefit of the doubt that it is native. So the term isn’t infallible, it just represents what we know about species “nativity”, rather than what we don’t know. Sometimes though genetics can tell the origin, based on where the most related species are normally found. There are other ways, too. But not always!


That kinda proves what I feel about it, you need knowledge about whole species to imply that status for your iNat observation, and can not know some facts about it, so it’s not something all regular users would have been able to use as it’s much harder than what we have now.

That’s exactly what it is. But if you don’t know, there’s usually ample ways to find out by researching the species. Local guides, internet, and so on. It’s never been a straight-forward concept, really. But worst case there’s people you can ask for second opinions, so it’s not a problem if you mark something incorrectly as native.


Out of curiosity, what about plants used for restoration - for example, a meadow that has been seeded in a nature preserve/protected area for the purposes of restoring that site to either a historic state or other wildlife goal, using plants that are technically native to the region but are either rare or have no nearby known populations? Such as how many sites now are restored for pollinators using species like Heliopsis helianthoides, Monarda fistulosa, Ratibida pinnata, etc, which are technically native to New York (for example, where I am) but are rarely encountered in the wild here. These meadows persist and become self-sustaining with generations of the original transplants/seeds, with the management goal of making a ‘wild’ meadow as wildlife habitat. Will this entire habitat never be wild? Unless one is aware of those management activities and the status of the species involved, casual observers aren’t likely to know that the large meadows all around them aren’t wild. Whenever I go to a nature preserve and see one of these plants growing seemingly in the wild, even just a couple individuals, I always have serious doubts that it’s there from a ‘wild’ or original, never-planted population. What about if the meadows were seeded with species that are more common in local habitats, with locally collected seeds, in some ways facilitating dispersal?
I am just curious about this, as much of my own fieldwork takes place in these sorts of restoration sites, particularly restored wetlands on state and federal lands that are managed with the intent of mimicking natural species assemblages and conditions present prior to human disturbance, or to enhance them for wildlife food production using native species in specific proportions (which may or may not have ever been planted), with the long-term goal being restoring self-sufficient functionality that no longer requires human management to persist. In many cases here, if the plants were not managed or cared for, the ‘wild’ that would come in would be invasive plants, thus reaching a wild state in the present day would include allowing exotics to populate alongside the natives, which undermines conservation goals, which can include establishing new populations of keystone or rare species as a source of seeds, genetic diversity, etc, for true wild populations.
I do grapple with all of this! What difficulties arise in assigning conservation status, or even determining ranges, of plants when it may no longer be easy to tell where a plant ‘originally’ grew in a region, with so many populations originating, at some point, from planted individuals?

if they self-sustain they have become wild but, on the other hand, they should not be considered native in a strict sense, especially if these plantations are made starting with accessions that are not from the same area.

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If we talk about current state of iNat all seeded and planted ones are not wild, but all the new ones are wild, if you’re not sure about it I doubt there’s a big problem in leaving them as wild. It’s not any different than any other replanted area in the world, just harder to find out what was planted and what wasn’t if restoration was well done. If invasives are exterminated, the whole area is managed, but not individual plants, so that alone doesn’t make them captive.

It’s a fascinating question. If a plant has not been documented to occur in a particular county, but it has been documented in a county, say, to the west, and then someone seeds a field in which that plant becomes established as a reproducing population, does that become a new county record and range extension. I’d have to say, yes! There are many historical instances of this sort of thing and we see those newer locations as part of the current distribution of the plant in published range maps. Often times, it’s not documented that such plantings took place so it’s impossible to tell if the range extension is human-mediated or not.

Yes there are always going to be unknowns. Many plants are changing their ranges naturally, so a new county record could be the result of natural spread. Though many of the changes are attributed to climate change so some would argue they are not natural.

On the other hand, seed mixes will contain contaminants not on the contents list, so a species that turns up unexpectedly in a restored site could be an unintended introduction.

Re old hay meadows, farmers have been reseeding for centuries, so what we value as an ancient meadow with its original flora could just be reflecting what was in the sack of seed bought in the 19th century.


Just for fun: What if I have a rare native plant in my yard, and then I sell that property and move to the next county over where the species wasn’t previously known (or was it?), but I inadvertently carried some seeds on my shoe, and it got established in my new yard one county away, but then I decided to move back to my old home, by which time the new owner had stripped the yard of all native vegetation, so I grab some seeds of the transplanted plants in that second home and bring them back and plant them in the first yard, but then we have a big winter freeze that wipes out the newly reseeded plants, but the species shows up the next spring from seeds in the ground of unknown origin. What are they considered? ;-)

Just kidding!!