Would mold growing on my food be cultivated?

I’ve got a few questions when it comes to mold! I often can’t finish a block of cheese in time before it starts to mold, and while I can just cut it off, I started thinking about if it was something to upload.

The iNat help page defines captive/cultivated as this:
“Checking captive / cultivated means that the observation is of an organism that exists in the time and place it was observed because humans intended it to be then and there”

I can safely say I didn’t intend for mold to grow on my food, but I highly doubt something sprouting up in my fridge is “wild”, so I’ll ask you guys! Would mold growing on my food be cultivated or wild?


Unless it’s blue cheese (or similar varieties where mold is intended as part of the manufacturing process), it seems fairly clear cut to me.

Think of it like roe deer or boars in a field: from a logical standpoint, their presence is directly caused by human activity that created the habitat/feeding ground, but their presence is certainly not intended or desired and there’s no doubt they’re wild.

The grey area IMO would be letting food go bad or ferment on purpose (for instance sourdough starters), I feel like there’s a case either way, it’s intended that AN organism will be there, but not THAT organism in particular and it’s certainly evidence that the organism was there in the wild in the first place. I’d still hesitate, though.


That mold in your fridge is “wild” in the iNat sense - little hesitation imho.
Just like setting a pit trap filled with delicious cookies in your backyard: whatever ends up in there (beetle, brown bear, dog escapee, delivery guy) is not “captive” in the iNat sense (even though it’s “trapped” in the usual sense of the word).


Mold on waste food (e.g. a compost pile) would be “wild”. But in the case of cheese, I think the answer is subtler. Q: Where does the mold on cheese originate? Do the original spores which give rise to the mold that we see actually originate locally where the consumer/observer is, or in the production of the cheese at its point of origin?


Is it possible to find the answers to those questions?

Does not matter IMO, still wild.


I think this is an interesting point. If the mold was introduced by the cheesemaker as part of the cheese-making process, then it wouldn’t be wild - it would just be growing to the point where it was visible. For some cheeses with bloomy rinds (eg Brie, Camembert), mold spores are intentionally sprayed on the rind during production, so these would be cultivated. Some cheeses are also matured on racks or in caves, etc that are continuously inoculated with molds going back centuries - it is part of the terroir of that specific cheese type/brand. This is also the case for many ancient beer varieties that are produced - the yeasts are recruits from the wood implements and brewery buildings and this is intentional - you could make the same “recipe” beer elsewhere, but it wouldn’t be the same without the inoculation of those place-based yeasts.

If that’s not the case, though, and the mold was just due to spores present in the fridge, I think this is clearly wild. It’s analagous to any pest species like flour beetles or meal moths.


Treat it as wild. Also report what kind of cheese if you can, and somebody thinks the mold was a kind deliberately added to the cheese, they can mark it “cultivated.” (In my opinion.)


I once uploaded an observation of mold on my hummus that I forgot to take care of before going on a long holiday. I never considered this to be cultivated/captive. It grew there and I didn’t want it to. For me, it is on the same level of spiders and insects finding their way into our homes, whether we want it or not.

Quickly after uploading it however, I felt that observations like this are not so worthy of being created on iNaturalist, and I don’t intend to ever create a new one.


Just like pest ants getting in your house, its wild even if it is inside (unless it is a cheese that intentionally has mold from the start)


I have a few observations of mold myself, I view them as wild.


I imagine it is, but would involve either an expert providing a visual ID, or “most likely” scenario, which could involve the cheesemaking facility/personnel, or, to get a more precise answer, the fungi could be plated out, and grown in a lab, and IDed that way, also involving someone with specialized knowledge, and appropriate facilities and equipment. Alternatively, you could google it, or wiki it, and see if there is enough info out there to settle the question to your satisfaction. Also consider that your hands could be the vector.

1 Like

I would think of mold the way we think of weeds. If I want dandelions in my garden bed, and I encourage them to grow, those would be cultivated. If I have a garden with fennel, and dandelions are taking advantage of the nutrition there, they are wild. I would treat mold with the same viewpoint.


I think your cheese mold definitely counts as wild. If mold spores were sprayed something, then I’d consider it not wild.


I would do it if I thought that it could be identified. But a mold observation that stays forever at “Fungi including Lichens,” nope, not worth my time.


the best way to have it be confirmable later (adding microscope[d] pictures to the observation, or even adding sequence data to an observation field if lucky) is by taking a voucher. in the case of gross penicillate patches in a forgotten food container in the fridge, few of us including me are willing to try to preserve that… so yes, it does seem extra-likely to be stranded indefinitely and unhelpfully at the level of, at best, Ascomycota or similar.

1 Like

As you say, I think that would have to still be considered wild. If one were to intentionally rewild former agricultural land by simply letting it ‘go back to nature’, the wildlife that subsequently colonises the space is a desired consequence just as much as the sourdough starters.


in my opinion consider it as wild unless you have litterally chosen to cultivate a special strand.
we need more identifications of “molds” to have more accurate identification or at least try to guess what kind of mold / bacteria etc

Personally, I would guess that the food mold would be interesting and engaging, rather than not worthy of iNaturalist. Mold is something we think is rather disgusting and gross, but approached with a spirit of discovery, perhaps that negative initial response could lead to a connection with an aspect of the natural world that we don’t normally appreciate.

Also, think about kids learning about the natural world - having something familiar and very relatable to consider and learn from is really engaging if approached with a fresh perspective that takes them beyond the ick factor.

So who will create the “food mold” project? Think about what we’ll learn. Which molds are the most common? Is it a different mix of species that dominates in different parts of the world, or largely the same the world over? How many kinds of mold are there, anyway? What will you find next, an undiscovered species in your pita bread?


I think this is somewhat analogous to a bird feeder or moth light, with the caveat that a far as I know mold doesn’t move on its own. But the food is what allows you to actually observe the mold. I think a sourdough starter that you then purposely care for should probably not be considered wild, similar to a stray cat you make into a housecat.