April 14, 2022

Rudimentary Notes on Scutellaria Parvula

Will expand this later, check in FNCT and other sources. I have never seen this species before, so take this information tentatively.

S. drummondii and S. parvula can appear to have similarly sized corollas, and both have longer white hairs on the calyx. Normally it appears that the size of the corolla relative to the calyx is smaller when looking at S. parvula, but other characteristics should be used to verify this species.

The length of the flowering pedicel relative to the calyx
For S. parvula, I've noticed that the flowering pedicel is much more prominent than that of S drummondii. The length of the flowering pedicel is about the same as the length of the calyx. On S. drummondii, the pedicel is inconspicuous and the flowers appear almost to be sessile.

The molted speckles on the corolla
The dark speckles or dots on S. drummondii appear to remain restricted to the white part in the middle. For S. parvula these speckles will more often than not reach outward to the edge of the two front corolla lobes.

The shape of the leaf base
According to Flora of North Central Texas (pg 778-779), S parvula can be distinguished via the leaf base, which are "subcordate to truncate" compared to "rounded for tapering bases" for S. drummondii (and S. wrightii)

Posted on April 14, 2022 14:51 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 27, 2022

Scutellaria drummondii vs Scutellaria wrightii

I find these two species can sometimes get confused in the Central Texas area... I myself didn't really understand these two very well, but I think I have a basic understanding of how they can be differentiated.


What to take photos of

To get the best evidence to ID these two, I would recommend taking a photo of:

  • a clear side/lateral shot of the flower, with corolla, calyx and stem in focus.
  • an overall shot to show the habit of the plant

Differentiation via the texture of the calyxes

S. drummondii will have long hairs, noticeable pubescence on the calyx ("spreading-pubescent or pilose" as Shiner and Mahler's Flora of North Central Texas says). S. wrightii will have short hairs; any pubescence is inconspicuous to the naked eye ("short-pubescent with inconspicuous hairs"). So far, I have found this to be a reliable characteristic in differentiating the two. However, if the calyxes are very out of focus it can be near impossible to tell.

Differentiation via the shape and orientation of the corolla

S. wrightii usually has a noticeable curve at the base "like a little pipe". The lower half of the corolla also remains very narrow, before it rapidly expands outwards. This also causes the corolla to be flexed upwards, so that it projects perpendicular to the calyx and almost vertical in orientation.
S. drummondii appears to lack this feature, projecting close to horizontal from the stem, and widens more gradually from the base, forming a sideways V-shape.


Differentiation via the size of the corolla relative to the leaves

This is from my own personal observations, and I question the reliability of this method, so take this information with a grain of salt.
S. drummondii tends to have a corolla size that is not much larger than the surrounding leaves—at most I would say 1 1/2 times larger.
S. wrightii appears to have a corolla size that can often exceed the size of the leaves by a lot. This might be because the leaves at the end of the stems are younger and smaller than the base, and the large flowers tend to be clustered near the top. Or that since the corolla curves upward, it tends to extend up past a leaf node (or even two). Flowers further down the stem can be more proportional in size to the leaves. But often when looking at the plant, especially when well into bloom, the flowers really tend to dominate the scene.


Differentiation via the habit

When the plant is mature, the stems of S. wrightii are often densely clustered together, forming a tighter clump than S. drummondii does. S. wrightii is also a perennial—a woody perennial. On older plants, there will often be dead stems from previous seasons still visible. S drummondii is an annual, and, as far as I have seen, does not form woody stems.


Differentiation via surrounding soil

Alone this may not be a definitive ID feature, but it is a good clue.
S. wrightii is a inhabitant of poor, dry soils, often rocky and surrounded by bits of limestone. The soil color will usually be quite light in color. Apparently it can also be found on sandy soils as well. S. drummondii is less picky and will grow in clay and loam soils as well as sandy and limestone soils. You will probably not find S. wrightii growing on clay or loam... perhaps that's why it remains mostly limited to the Edward's Plateau... though its range does stretch upwards towards Dallas and Oklahoma.


Example observations:
S. drummondii:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/3020196
S. wrightii:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/4088602

Resources:
https://fwbg.org/research/brit-press/illustrated-flora-of-north-central-texas-online/ - Dicots: Fabaceae to Zygophyliaceae, page 778
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/75992067#identification-84b1d42a-0054-4f8c-8f47-90742f13d4fc
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/22646848

Also with the amount of times these can get mistaken for Texas Sage (Check out the Dave's Garden plant file!) I should add in a separate note about how to distinguish those too, but I can do that later.

Posted on March 27, 2022 04:30 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 2 comments | Leave a comment

March 16, 2022

Smilax bona-nox vs Smilax rotundifolia

This is a quick post to remind me of how to distinguish these two Smilax species. With Smilax rotundifolia, it's less of a case of finding characteristics to look for, but more of looking for characteristics that would rule it out.


Differentiation via thorns on leaf nodes

Smilax bona-nox will have thorns at leaf/tendril nodes (Smilax glauca will also exhibit this characteristic). Smilax rotundifolia will not. If there are thorns at the leaf nodes, then it's NOT Smilax rotundifolia.


Differentiation via leaf margins

Smilax bona-nox has prickles along the leaf margins, which I suppose is where it got its common name "Saw Greenbrier." On some specimens this can be quite obvious, while on others they exhibit no prickles at all. However, prickles on the leaf margin will rule out S. rotundifolia. It is good practice to check multiple leaves for any prickles.

Smilax rotundifolia often has a "minute roughness" on the leaf margin. This is one of the best characteristics to look for... though it can be hard to see or photograph. Not every S. rotundifolia plant will exhibit this, but it is pretty consistent. Besides prickles, S. bona-nox margins will be completely smooth to the touch, and can also have a "cartilaginous edge" - a cream colored border.

Note: S. tamnoides, the bristly greenbrier, also exhibits this minute roughness, so always check to see if you can find the needle thin, black prickles so you don't mix those up too.


Differentiation via leaf petiole color

Smilax rotundifolia tends to have pinkish coloration on its petioles, while Smilax bona-nox will have green petioles. If a specimen exibits a pinkish color on the leaf petioles, that is a good reason to lean towards S. rotundifolia


Differentiation via leaf shape, texture, etc.

I do not think these characteristics are as reliable as the other ones, but will list them anyways.
Smilax bona-nox leaves can have a three-lobed appearance. This can be more or less prominent on specimens, but if the plant is distinctly three-lobed that rules out S. rotundifolia.
Smilax bona-nox will also have "tougher, leatherier leaves," while Smilax rotundifolia has a brighter shine to it. Young leaves of both species tend to look shiny though so this probably applies better with mature leaves.
Smilax bona-nox often have light splotches on its leaves. Seldom will you find this on S. rotundiflolia, if at all.


Differentiation via number of seeds in berry

Smilax bona-nox will consistently have one big seed in each berry
Smilax rotundifolia will have 2-3 seeds per berry



Example observations:
S. bona-nox
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/10823410
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9163238
S. rotundifolia
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/38340084
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/23535086

Set of observations with disagreements between these species: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?ident_taxon_id_exclusive=125677,60746&order_by=votes&place_id=1&verifiable=any

Resources:
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/fr375
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/24538904#activity_comment_1344649a-4a64-4a3e-82e5-aa40689f20d6

Posted on March 16, 2022 01:02 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 26, 2022

Giliastrum spp.

Common in Texas:

  • Bluebowls (Giliastrum rigidulum)
  • Splitleaf Gilia (Giliastrum incisum)
  • Bluebowls (Giliastrum acerosum)

Distinguishing these taxa

G. rigidulum and G. acerosum will tend to have a deeper blue corolla, size around 10mm overall.
Both will have deciduous basal leaves that are not persistent.

G. acerosum occurs further west, In Trans-Pecos and the Plains., leaves acerose or needle shaped with thin linear divisions
G.rigidulum limited to the Edwards Plateau area, leaves are NOT acerose and divisions of the leaf are broader.

G. incisum has distinct basal leaves that are simple or "deeply serrate," size of corolla 4-7 mm

Key: https://polemoniaceae.wordpress.com/giliastrum/

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/4077866

Posted on January 26, 2022 22:19 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 16, 2022

December 30, 2021

Identifying plants - Advice from Nathan's Identifier profile

https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/56161-identifier-profile-nathantaylor

http://floranorthamerica.org/Ageratina
http://www.bonap.org/

Looking up specimens:
iNaturalist observations/images in general are not very reliable, so try to use specimens.
https://plants.jstor.org/ but I'm not in college yet so I don't have an account =(((
https://www.gbif.org/species/search?q=

Posted on December 30, 2021 18:08 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 28, 2021

List of Common Replies for ID'ing

In an attempt to help more people, I am creating a list of replies for common comments I'll make on an observation. I care about all the newer iNatters out there and want to help them out the best I can in a courteous and kind manner... as a scout should do!

Also... Helpful Identification Guides

Also, here's a list of helpful identification guides: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/lisa281/31012-helpful-identification-guides
Hopefully you've found this already, it comes in handy every now and then!

~

Also, you appear quite new to the site, so here's a handy list of helpful identification guides: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/lisa281/31012-helpful-identification-guides
I find it useful every now and then!

Cultivated plant

-Possibly/Definitely cultivated-

Is this a cultivated plant?

Unfortunately, the wild/cultivated distinction in iNaturalist is an obscure thing. A lot of people don't figure it out when they first upload observations (like me!).

Let me take an excerpt out of my "Helpful Tips and Resources for Beginner (Plant) iNatters":

"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/cultivated, iNaturalist has definitions and examples here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#captive"

Also, take a look at this if you want to (https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/arnanthescout/57230-helpful-tips-and-resources-for-beginner-plant-inatters) for some tips for iNatting with plants!

Hope you find this helpful!

~

Is this a cultivated plant?

Unfortunately, the wild/cultivated distinction in iNaturalist is an obscure thing. A lot of people don't figure it out when they first upload observations.

I know. No one ever told me either.

Let me take an excerpt out of my "Helpful Tips and Resources for Beginner (Plant) iNatters":

"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/cultivated, iNaturalist has definitions and examples here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#captive"

Also, take a look at this if you want to (https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/arnanthescout/57230-helpful-tips-and-resources-for-beginner-plant-inatters) for some tips for iNatting with plants!

Hope you find this helpful!

Rubus

Can be hard to differentiate, but if you know what to look for/take photos of it is possible to bring these to species. See https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/kimberlietx/30266-key-to-rubus-spp-of-texas-dewberries-blackberries-and-brambles for info on distinguishing Texas species.

Callirhoe

~May have features visible~

These are really similar and can be hard to ID to species... but only if you don't know what to look for (and photograph)
I'm not sure if there's enough info in these pictures to get this to a species ID...

...but see this guide https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/54356-a-short-guide-to-callirhoe-in-texas if you want to get your Callirhoe observations to RG!

~

These are really similar and can be hard to ID to species... but only if you don't know what to look for (and photograph)

...see this guide https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/54356-a-short-guide-to-callirhoe-in-texas if you want to get your Callirhoe observations to RG.

~Doesn't have features visible~

These are really similar and can be hard to ID to species... but only if you don't know what to look for (and photograph)
I don't think there's enough in here to get this to a species ID...

...but see this guide https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/54356-a-short-guide-to-callirhoe-in-texas if you want to get your Callirhoe observations to RG!

Winged vs Cedar

Turns out, Winged Elm is not the only elm with wings... ;D
"In a better, simpler world, all elms with wings would be Winged Elms, but this is not the case."

Typically, Winged Elm has more pointed leaves (botany speech: acuminate apex)
See here for more detailed info: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/lisa281/20574-the-elm-project-part-3-cedar-elm-vs-winged-elm%0A

Juniperus

Junipers are one of the very few times it's useful to get a broader photo of the entire tree.

Ashe Juniper usually follows the Balconnes escarpment, and Eastern Red Cedar goes towards the East. Luckily, (or unluckily), they overlap right around the Central Texas Region :D

Ashe juniper will be more bush-like, branching off from the bottom to create a giant globular bush.
Easter Red Cedar will be more conifer tree-like (think Christmas tree), having a main trunk with the branches coming out.

There are some other more obscure characteristics as well, but that's one of the easier ways.

Anemone

It's definitely an anemone! We have many species here in Texas, and they can be hard to tell apart. Will wait and see if someone else can ID.

If you want to get more in-depth with how to take pictures of these for a higher chance of species ID, see here: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/pfau_tarleton/20891

~

We have many species here in Texas, and while there's a pretty high chance this is A. berlandieri, it can be hard to be certain. Who knows, maybe it could be one of the rarer ones...

If you want to get more in-depth with how to take pictures of these for a higher chance of species ID, see here: https://www.inaturalist.org/journal/pfau_tarleton/20891

Geraniums

Can be difficult to get these to species... but if you find these flowering though, a clear picture of the flower helps a lot!

Posted on December 28, 2021 01:23 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 26, 2021

Darcy's Sage

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/475236-Salvia-darcyi
https://www.calfloranursery.com/plants/salvia-darcyi
https://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=2421
https://www.plantdelights.com/products/salvia-darcyi
https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/106615/
http://prairiebreak.blogspot.com/2012/09/burning-bush-salvia-darcyi.html

From Wikipedia, 12 December 2021:

"Salvia darcyi is a herbaceous perennial shrub native to a very small area at 9000 ft elevation in the eastern range of the Mexican Sierra Madre Oriental. Discovered in the wild in 1991, it has since been sold in horticulture under several names. Botanist James Compton named the plant after fellow British botanist John d'Arcy after a trip they made to the region in 1991.

Salvia darcyi reaches 3 feet in height, with stoloniferous roots that spread over time and deltoid pastel green leaves that are very sticky. The bright coral red flowers are 1.5 inches long on inflorescences that reach up to 2 feet."

From "Prairiebreak" blog:

"I have referred to Salvia darcyi glancingly in many posts over the last few years. Perhaps it's time to grasp the thistle (so to speak) and acknowledge this uber-sage, this conflagration, this burning bush of garden plants. Just a few days ago, Mark Kane (an old gardening friend and great horticulturist) commented casually as we strolled past a planting of this sage at DBG) that he was with Carl Schoenfeld and John Fairey (of the famed Yucca Do and Peckerwood Garden) in 1988 in Nuevo Leon when they first collected this taxon: at the time they thought it was Salvia oresbia. A few years later James Compton and William D'Arcy accompanied the Yucca Do meisters to the same spot, and the plant was subsequently named (or renamed?...I am not sure Charles Christopher Parry's collection of S. oresbia in 1878 might not be the same plant incidentally--which would wreak a bit of nomenclatural havoc...)"

From San Marcos Grower's website:

"This plant was originally discovered by Carl Schoenfeld and John Fairey of Yucca Do Nursery near Galena, Mexico, in 1988 and in 1991 they guided a British expedition that included British botanist James Compton to a site where it was found growing along a rocky limestone ravine at 9,000 feet in the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range. Though originally called Salvia oresbia, Compton officially described it in a 1994 issue of the journal of Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, naming it after Canadian born botanist William G. D'Arcy, who accompanied him on the collection trip and so it is also commonly called Darcy's sage."

Primary source? https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8748.1994.tb00406.x
Curtis's Botanical Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 2. May 1994.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION by Compton: "Herbs to 1.5m or more; stems and leaves densely glandular-pubescent; inflorescence whorls with 4-6 flowers... S. darcyi"

Names:
Carl Schoenfeld
https://www.texaslegacy.org/narrator/carl-schoenfeld/
John Fairey
https://jfgarden.org/about/
http://www.kleinfuneralhome.com/obituary/john-fairey
Owners of Yucca Do Nursery
Main initiators on the "Yucca Do Expeditions," a series of excursions into the remote Mexican mountains. Their interest in the area came from an initial trip in 1988 with Lynn Lowery, where they gained their fascination with the region and its plants.

Info on one of their expeditions https://www.juniperlevelbotanicgarden.org/content/learn/expeditions/1994_mexico/

James Compton
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James-Compton-5
https://species.wikimedia.org/wiki/James_A._Compton
William G. D'Arcy - The plant is named after him
http://www.efloras.org/person_profile.aspx?person_id=1444

Lynn Lowery, horticulturalist and plant explorer
https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/archives/parsons/heroes/lowrey2.html
https://www.texaslegacy.org/narrator/carl-schoenfeld/ Carl Schoenberg discusses his impressions of Lynn Lowery in an interview

Locations:
Denver Botanical Gardens
Galena, Mexico/Sierra Madre
Yucca Do Nursery
John Fairey Garden/Peckerfield Garden - https://jfgarden.org/ and https://www.gardenconservancy.org/preservation/preservation-news/peckerwood-nursery-opening

The last two are the same location, the Peckerfield Garden was apparently built over where the Yucca Do Nursery used to be.

Noticed:
-Longer petiole than Tropical Sage
-Scabrous texture, "papery" as described in an iNat observation
-"Pastel" green color
-Leaf deltoid, cordate base tapering inward to an attenuate margin
-Height of plant is quite tall, 3-4 feet?
-Some sort-of distinct aroma associated with it - a "pleasant aroma" as San Marcos Growers say, "herbaceous cat urine" as described in an iNat observation, or "sulfur" as a commenter on Prairiebreak blog suggests.
-Large prolific blooms, long blooming season

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/98352372
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/95174441
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/96689402

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/95557248

Synonym Salvia oresbia?

Posted on December 26, 2021 05:10 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

December 03, 2021

Notes on Ageratina in Texas

Shrubby Boneset (Ageratina havanensis)
White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
Other species (A. wrightii) less than 5 RG observations
BONAP range
Glossary of Leaves for convenience

A. havanensis A. altissima
Form Shrub Herbaceous Perennial
Woody Stem?

Yes
(though younger plants may not develop this yet)

No
Leaf shape

Deltate to broadly ovate or somewhat hastate
(Leaning towards triangular?)

Deltate-ovate to ovate or broadly lanceolate
(Can get more ovular in shape)

Leaf margins

Dentate, sometimes bluntly
and bordering on crenate

Coarsely and doubly serrated/incised

Cypsellae texture
(As if anyone would take a picture of the cypsellae!)

Hispid (Stiff hairs/bristles) Glabrous

It's been observed that the anther filaments do not stick out as much/are less prominent. This does seem true... Not confident about reliability yet but looks promising.
Also according to FNA,
"Ageratina havanensis apparently is the only species of the genus in the flora area with evergreen-persistent leaves."

Links:
FNA:
http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Ageratina_havanensis
http://beta.floranorthamerica.org/Ageratina_altissima
GBIF (Herbarium specimens)
https://www.gbif.org/species/5400768 A. havanensis
https://www.gbif.org/species/5400552 A. altissima

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/64215732

Posted on December 03, 2021 18:12 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment

September 25, 2021

Helpful Tips and Resources for Beginner (Plant) iNatters AND Common Beginner Mistakes





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.


Getting Good Photos for Documentation


Good photos are tantamount to good observations. It's not that hard to create good photos even from a phone camera... if you know what to do!

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 resources 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
How to Make Research-Quality Observations in iNaturalist: https://www.segrasslands.org/recording-species-in-inat-website
Random Tips: https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/5360-tips-for-making-inaturalist-observations
iNat Slideshow Introduction: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1b1q7qc0UEnBK5ChSJHaW97fdS04R7P6toSf75AmMTLo/


Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them


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/cultivated, iNaturalist has definitions and examples here:

In terms of identifying that unknown plant in your garden, you can always use the iNat AI to help. 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 camera focus, that will also help.

Sometimes a 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.
On taking pictures at night—IMO it's a lot better to take photos in the day (there aren't many reasons to take photos of plants at night), but using flash can work. Though besides that... 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... or photos of just the flower.

Overall images showing the entire tree/plant can be helpful for showing the habit of a plant (whether it is low growing or standing, a vine or shrub or tree), but they usually don't show enough to reach a definitive ID.
Similarly, a photo of just the flower is great for normal photography, but if you want a species ID you'll probably need more.

When taking pictures of plants, Here's my rule of thumb: flowers from the top and side, leaves (maybe 3-8 in a photo). This is usually enough for an identifier to get a plant to genus, at the least.
If you want to be really thorough, you can do the bottom side of the leaf and the bark as well.
In addition, I'll photograph anything unique or unusual features about the plant. Does it have thorns or other prickly things on it? Is there fruit or seedpods? These can be helpful for identification.

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!


Other Tips

  • 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.
  • Sometimes it isn't obvious if a plant is a vine or a shrub, which can confuse identifiers, so add in the description "vine" or something of the like.
  • If there are multiple plants/organisms in the photo, it helps to write in the description which one you want identified.
  • For info about geoprivacy obscuring observations (If you want to obscure observations near your house, for example), location and time metadata, getting photos to the website uploader, and other technical things, see this journal post: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/rrhs-ecological-survey/journal/60932

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!

If you have questions or concerns about iNaturalist, contact me by tagging me to an observation (@arnanthescout ) or messaging me on iNat!

Feel free to add comments below!

Last updated: 4 January 2021

Moved from another place for convenience

Posted on September 25, 2021 22:59 by arnanthescout arnanthescout | 0 comments | Leave a comment