Σεπτέμβριος 25, 2021

Helpful Tips and Resources for Beginner (Plant) iNatters

First impressions matter.

iNaturalist isn't just a website to post your observations, but a community of people. It can be daunting at first, especially if you don't know the hidden manners and norms. Lots of people will post observations that will never get identified due to minor mistakes, and many get a bad impression and leave.

These images show some common hiccups with rookie users (I'll go over these in detail below): bad photo exposure, unfocused/blurry pictures (though this one can be persistent—my camera focus is evidence), taking photos of cultivated plants, unaware that they should be marked captive/cultivated and that iNaturalist is focused on wild organisms (this can frustrate people when their observations get marked as casual), taking photos of the whole tree/plant, but no closeup of leaves/flowers, By the way, these are all my photos from old observations. I was once one of you!

However, get past the newbie troubles, and you will find a knowledgeable and welcoming community, and a powerful tool that could change your life! This is here to help you get a good introduction.

Making observations count: https://bushblitz.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/BackyardSpeciesDiscovery_Factsheet-2_Make-your-observations-count.pdf
Getting Great Plant Photos in iNaturalist: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/abisko-plants-and-phenology/journal/17621-getting-great-plant-photos-for-identification-in-inaturalist

These two are probably the most useful in my opinion. Some other resources (I'll probably add more):

Official iNat guide: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started
Random Tips: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/5360-tips-for-making-inaturalist-observations

I've noticed a lot of common errors by users that eventually dissuade them from using iNaturalist. For the sake of all of us, I'll address them below. Fix these hiccups, and I guarantee you will get more ID's and enjoy iNaturalist better!

1: Taking pictures of cultivated plants—without knowing the norms for that

This is probably the most common. People will take picture of ornamental flowers in garden beds, planted trees, potted succulents. That's completely fine! Sometimes I'll find an interesting cultivated plant and want to know what that is. With these plants, however, you should mark them captive/cultivated, so that they'll be casual observations. iNaturalist is focused on wild organisms, and a plant in a garden placed there by a human is not Research Grade material. If you're confused on what counts as captive/sultivated, iNaturalist has definitions and examples here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#captive
In terms of identifying that unknown plant in your garden, you can always use the iNat AI. You just won't be able to verify those observations with other people, since most identifiers don't identify Casual observations.

2: Photos for the same plant spread out in multiple observations.

Unknowing users who take multiple pictures of plants (which is good!) often post each photo in its own observations. I don't understand why. Maybe they aren't familiar with the system, or don't realize they can put multiple photos in an observation. Whatever the case, I'll just say that in most cases, if it's a photo of the same organism, put it in the same observations. Sometimes I'll even put photos of groups of organisms together, (multiple violet ruellias that are near each other, for example) as long as they appear to be the same species .

3:Blurry/Unfocused/Overexposed photos

While technically there's nothing wrong with these, it is definitely a lot more difficult to ID things if it's hard to make out details.
In terms of blurry/unfocused photos, there are some ways to deal with this. If the plant is moving due to wind, let that die down before taking a shot, of if the wind is relatively weak hold it with one hand to keep it steady. For plant parts that are just fine and thin, which will cause the camera lens to focus to the background instead of the foreground, you could put your hand behind the plant so it focuses closer up (or use a piece of paper, or a notebook). If you know how to manually adjust your focus, that will also help.
Sometimes an plant will be contrasted (maybe sunlight hits some leaves but not others, or half of a flower), and that'll cause the camera to adjust the exposure to either the bright area and make everything else really dark, or to the dark area and make the bright area really bright. I make sure to keep my lighting relatively even (all bright under sunlight, or all dim). If I have a problem with exposure I'll usually huddle over a plant with my shadow so that the light is all even.
As for taking pictures at night... I got nothing. Someone help me out here!

4: Photos of the entire plant (the whole tree or bush), but without any close-ups of leaves or flowers

For identification (at least for plants), you'll need close, clear images of leaves and flowers. Overall images showing the entire tree are usually not useful. Sometimes it can be helpful (for distinguishing the multi-trunked Ashe Juniper and the more tree-like Eastern Red Cedar, for example), but most of the time it is not necessary.
Another note: Some plants require more specific features to be identified. You can usually figure that out by asking around the community or checking identification guides—here's a hub for some of those.

If an user corrects you, or marks a observation casual, don't take that personally! Most of them are just trying to help you learn these hidden "rules". Usually when I correct users or point mistakes out I make sure to keep my tone friendly so you don't misinterpret my feelings. Others might not, and tone can be hard to convey in just words. Keep that in mind!

A good way to learn how to make good observations are to look at other people's observations. After all, there are plenty of veteran users who have stellar observations!
Make observations wherever you can—walking to a class during school, around the parking lot of a supermarket, etc. The more observations you make, the more experience you'll get.

About geoprivacy obscuring observations (If you want to obscure observations near your house, for example): https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#geoprivacy
Info on how to use Google Photos to back up photos: https://www.businessinsider.com/google-photos-backup
I suggest downloading photos from Google Photos onto your computer, and then uploading them, as iNat can be fussy about Google Photos sometimes.

I also suggest that you do not start identifying plants until you are well versed with them—say maybe 100-200 observations.

I implore anyone who read this to share this with anyone who might find these tips handy!

Adapted from another location for convenience

Αναρτήθηκε στις Σεπτέμβριος 25, 2021 1059 ΜΜ από arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Σεπτέμβριος 24, 2021

Study of Common Fleabanes in Austin Metropolitan Area: Genus Erigeron

[1] Daisy Fleabane (E strigosis) vs [2] Philadelphia Fleabane (E philadelphicus) vs [3] Plains Fleabane (E modestus)

-Section Quercifolium
-E. strigosis
-Section Phalacroloma
-E. philadelphicus

-E. modestus

Lady Bird Wildflower Center Info:

Bloom time:

  1. April-May
  2. March-June
  3. February-October


  1. N/A
  2. Rich thickets, fields, and open woods
  3. Dry, open, calcareous uplands, Rocky uplands in West, Central and North Central Texas west to New Mexico and Arizona. Well-drained gravel, limestone.

Flora of North America Info:

1: 30-70cm
2: 4-80cm
3: 8-40cm


  1. Erect or ascending
  2. Erect
  3. Ascending to spreading (often multiple from bases; of previous year often persistent)

Leaves, basal:

  1. a. Spatulate (tapered at base, wider at the end) to broadly or narrowly oblanceolate (lance-shaped, but the point at the base) to linear, 30-150mm
    b. Persistent through flowering (usually)

  2. a. Oblanceolate to obovate (Oval, wider at the end), 30–110mm
    b. Persistent or withering by flowering

  3. a. Spatulate to oblanceolate, 20–50mm
    b. Withering by late flowering

Leaves, cauline:

  1. a. Gradually reduced distally ( thinner further out from attachment area, like the leaf)
    b. Margins entire or shallowly to deeply serrate or crenate

  2. a. Oblong-oblanceolate to lanceolate, Gradually reduced distally. (bases clasping to auriculate-clasping (earlike clasping?))
    b. Margins shallowly crenate to coarsely serrate or pinnately lobed

  3. a. Same as basal, Spatulate to oblanceolate
    b. Margins entire or with 1–2(–3) pairs of teeth

Αναρτήθηκε στις Σεπτέμβριος 24, 2021 0941 ΜΜ από arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούλιος 06, 2021

Mulberry Blurb

Mulberries are such a pain to identify.

Found from: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/ronstephens/44007-white-and-red-mulberries
Best resource differentiating Red and White Mulberry
Unfortunately, these two can hybridize...

Red Mulberry: The lone native
White Mulberry: The invasive one
Paper Mulberry: velvety-pubescent on leaves, longer petiole. The other invasive one

Black Mulberry: The other, cultivated brother. Slower growing than its invasive counterparts. Also said to have the best berries.
Texas Mulberry: Micro phylla, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in. Dark auxillary buds clear here.
Korean Mulberry (Morus indica): I'm going to ignore this one.

Some things:

M. rubra: 3-9 in
M. alba: 2 1/2 to 8 in
M. nigra: 1 1/2 to 6 in
M. microphylla: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 in

M. rubra: Finely serrate, doubly serrate?
M. alba: Blunty crenate
M. nigra: Coarsely toothed
M. microphylla: Coarsely serrate

M. rubra: Glabrous, scabrous, almost sandpaper-like above. Soft pubescent beneath.
M. alba: Glabrous and glossy above, glabrous beneath.
M. nigra: Rough, becoming glabrous above. Pubescent(sources vary in description, but it's at least hairy) beneath.
M. microphylla: Somewhat pubescent above. glabrous to hairy-ish below.

Leaf apex:
M. rubra: Acute to prominently acuminate (think very-tapered)
M. alba: Acute to short-acuminate
M. nigra: Acute to short-acuminate
M. microphylla: Acute to short-acuminate

What this basically boils down to:

M. rubra: Large scabrous leaves, finely serrate margins, prominent veins. If apex is very acuminate then that's also a good sign.
M. alba: Glossy leaves, glabrous throughout, bluntly crenate margins.
M. nigra: Rough-ish above, Pubescent beneath (unlike M. alba), coarsely toothed (but not finely serrate like )
M. microphylla: All the leaves are tiny, dark auxilary buds.
Broussonetia papyrifera: Leaves covered in white-velvety pubescence (often creating a white lining around the edges where the light hits the hairs), finely serrate margins.

Anything in-between: Probably a hybrid or something. Leave it be.

Things I looked at:
Trees of Central Texas by Robert A. Vines
A lot of different iNat observations and images.

Αναρτήθηκε στις Ιούλιος 06, 2021 0722 ΜΜ από arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο

Ιούλιος 01, 2021

Field Identification Tips for the Sages of Central Texas

Sages are very commonly misidentified, especially for beginning iNatters, so here are a few tips I've learned for some of the Salvia species:

Last updated: 5 July 2021

Salvia engelmannii (Engelmann's Sage) and Salvia texana (Texas Sage)
While Engelmann's Sage tends to be a pale lavender color, and Texas Sage a deeper shade of blue, the color of the blooms isn't a reliable way to distinguish the two.

The easiest way I distinguish these two is by the upper corolla lobe.

Engelmann's Sage is pilose (covered in fine, soft hairs) on the upper corolla lobe:

Image by @desertnaturalist on iNaturalist

This is absent for Texas Sage:

Image by @jbecky on iNaturalist

Once you notice this, it's quite hard to miss. Credit to @alex_abair for first pointing this out in an observation I found
Also note how the flower stalk on Texas Sage looks less dense (personally I'd call it a willowy look) than Engelmann's Sage and contains conspicuous, long, white hairs.

I've noticed that on the upper corolla lobe of Engelmann's Sage, there appears to be a sort-of "snake's tongue" that stick out (visible in the image, on the flower on the right). I have yet to determine whether that is a reliable characteristic of that particular species.

Salvia farinacea (Mealy Blue Sage)
Mealy Blue Sage is distinct is this area since the pedicel (the flower stalk) and the calyx share the blue of the flowers. Usually it'll range from a lighter blue to a greyish color. There will usually be no sign of green when the flowers are in bloom. Often the entire flower stalk will be a purplish blue. It will also appear powdery or "mealy" due to hairs on the calyces.

Image by @arnanthescout via iNaturalist

Salvia roemeriana (Cedar Sage), Salvia coccinea (Tropical Sage), and Salvia greggii (Autumn Sage)

These are another three plants that are often mixed up. The main difference is in the leaves.
The leaves of Cedar Sage are distinctly rounded with a scalloped/crenate edge.

Image by @samwilhelm on iNaturalist
It also has a long petiole, almsot as long as the length of the leaf:

Those of Tropical Sage are more mint-like, ovate to cordate in shape, and more pointed at the tip.

*Image by @himuegge on iNaturalist

Autumn Sage has small leaves, obovate to eliptic in shape, no larger than the corollas. It is often planted as a cultivated plant.

I guess I'll call this finished. Most of the other sages I find distinct and easier to identify, but I could try to add them all in.
If you have any other useful identification information be sure to tell me.
Αναρτήθηκε στις Ιούλιος 01, 2021 0813 ΜΜ από arnanthescout arnanthescout | 4σχόλια | Αφήστε ένα σχόλιο