Journal archives for June 2022

June 02, 2022

iNaturalist an Overview of Observations, Identifications and More

Hello everyone! This post will be diving into how to use iNaturalist, make good observations, identify plants, and support the Sarasota Manatee EcoFlora Project! Also don’t forget to sign up for some very cool bioblitzes coming up. Lazy Dollar this Friday June 3rd at 9am is a small advanced level bioblitz and hike on a preserve not available to the public. Wednesday the 15th will be at Anna Maria Beach and is very accessible to the general public.
Both bioblitzes are at 9am and you can sign up here!

For New Users

Observations: The very first thing you want to make sure when you are a new iNaturalist user is to make sure you are taking clear photos of plants from multiple angles. Many plants need several good photos to identify and to be 100% sure of your observation you need: the top and bottom of leaves, stems, fruits and or flowers, trunks, any special features, and the habit or where the plant is growing. Then you want to upload all your photos of each plant into one single observation of each plant, we do not want each individual photo of each plant as their own observation as it makes it harder to identify and fills the app with duplicates. Finally, you want to identify the plant as best as you can even if you just put “plant” in the ID line. If the plant has no ID it becomes “unknown” and will not show up in many projects. You can use the suggestions to help you get close but be cautious as it is not 100% accurate. Also, common names can be very different so try using the Latin names for positive ID’s!

Oaks need the tops and bottom of the leaves for a positive ID, if you are unsure, you can simply put “Oak” under suggest a species. Left to right we have Quercus myrtifolia, chapmanii, and inopina. All are scrub habitat oaks with similar leaves but subtle differences in the leaf shape, curve, and texture!

Identifications: When identifying your own plants, the suggested feature can be helpful in getting you close but may not be 100% accurate. Always be sure to put something however, and for the Sarasota Manatee EcoFlora Project we automatically include all embryophyta or: vascular plants, liverworts, and mosses so be sure to at least identify it to that level. This includes almost all land plants and mostly excludes algae so if you don’t know anything about what kind of plant it is, simply put vascular plant and we can help you identify it further. Many plants are put into larger families or genuses that have common characteristics. All milkweeds or Asclepias have similar flowers, a great identifying characteristic. If you are helping someone else identify a plant or using the identify feature on our project identify it as closely as you can, if you know if it a milkweed but not what species just put Asclepias in the identification line! Lastly any plant obviously being grown by people, such as a flower in a pot mark cultivated in the bottom of your observation Data Quality Assessment, anything wild in a preserve or a weed in a flower bed is considered wild and no additional marking is needed.

All Asclepias or milkweeds have very complex, five petaled flowers comparable to orchids in their complexity and are an identifying characteristic like this Asclepias lanceolata the fewflower milkweed.

For Experienced Users

Observations: Now that you know how to make good identifiable observations start looking to make your observations more helpful to scientists! On the right-hand side of your observations is the annotations allowing you to mark your plants as flowering, budding, fruiting, or even in some sexually dimorphic plants as male or female! Below that you’ll see which projects your observation is in, all vascular plants, mosses, and liverworts are automatically added to our project even if not research grade. Finally, if you see an animal such as a bee or bird pollinating a plant that is very useful information! You can add observation fields to plants and insect observations under observation fields. For instance if you see a butterfly visiting a flower, go to Interaction --> Visited Flower of and input the species it visited! There are hundreds of different fields so feel free to explore different types.

Plant insect interactions is a massive and important field of science, such as pest control, pollination, herbivory, and more. The kinds of pollinators are also far more than just butterflies and hummingbirds like this Bee Flower Scarab, a beetle that pollinates cactuses and large flowers by swimming in the nectar! What have you seen bugging out on your plants?

Identifications: If you have been using iNaturalist and are more experienced with plants go ahead and start looking for advanced characteristics that may make some species difficult to identify. Liatris species often require several photos of the leaves, flowers, sides of the flower buds, and high detail or the use of a hand lens to see the presence of absence of hairs. When in doubt use a dichotomous key, a specialized guide for identifying plants or animals and many are online or at libraries. If you’re really familiar with a group of plants you can to observations on the Sarasota Manatee EcoFlora Project Page and hit Identify and do either all recently added plants or help others identify certain species by hitting the filter button.

Rhexia species like this Rhexia mariana or Maryland Meadowbeauty require many photos of the flowers, flower buds, stems, and leaves to correctly identify.

Some groups that are found locally that require advanced observation characteristics are listed below!

Poaceae – Grasses need multiple photos of leaves, leaf sheathes around the stem for many identifications with some species only being discerned by the flowers and seeds so bring a handlense!

Ludwigia – Many primroses are actually smaller groundcovers and need close attention to flowers, leaf orientation, flower buds, and leaf orientation to identify.

Sagittaria – Widespread in wetlands these many species all look very different but have one common trait, three white petaled flowers and green to yellow centers.

Polypodiopsida – Ferns are a huge group of very similar plants, focus on the spores under leaves, scales along the fronds, and bases of the fronds or rhizomes.

Quercus – Oaks need the tops and bottoms of leaves to ID, habit is also very helpful as many are only endemic to certain areas.

Shrubbery – Many plants are green leaved bushes! Use the orientation of leaves, leaf shape and size, color, presence of thorns, flowers, areolas or dots on the stems, and even the smell of leaves to help with identification. An example of a locally common confusion is Yaupon holly and Walter's viburnum. Can you tell the difference in the pictures below without any fruits or flowers? Comment which photo on the left or right is which!

We hope this helps everyone become better observers and we want to see everyone out in the next few bioblitzes or simply participating on your own with friends and family!

Posted on June 02, 2022 05:32 PM by sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean sarasota_manatee_ecoflora_sean | 0 comments | Leave a comment