מאי 20, 2022

Branching out with iNaturalist - some favorite possibilities

by Janet Wright (janetwright on iNaturalist.org), Spring 2022

This guide was written for the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so I assume you’re already familiar with using the iNaturalist mobile app. If you’re not, here’s a quick introduction: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/video%252Btutorials#add_mob.
Now, let’s branch out to see what else iNaturalist has to offer, on the mobile app and website!

BRANCH #1: Discover Projects! at website https://www.iNaturalist.org

A “Project” brings together observations on a particular topic. iNat users have made thousands of projects. Check these samples out at iNaturalist.org, or find others by clicking on Community --> Projects. You can make your own project! The Project tab tells how. If you “join” a project, it will also show up on your mobile app (at Projects Tab)
Great Smoky Mountains Biodiversity Inventory: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/smokies-atbi
Pollinators of Virginia: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/pollinators-of-virginia
Georgia Grasslands Initiative: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/georgia-grasslands-initiative-ggi
Tracking invasion of Cuban Tree Frog: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/cuban-tree-frog-invasion
A small nature preserve in MS, saved with citizen efforts: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/lee-tartt-nature-preserve

BRANCH #2: Track down someone else’s (or your own old) find (Mobile app)

This spring I found a persimmon tree full of green fruit and posted it on iNaturalist. I can go back for some harvest in the fall, and iNaturalist will show me where to go!
HOW TO DO IT (Mobile app, iOS version):

BRANCH #3: Make your own preview field guide for your next foray.

Going to a new place? Use iNaturalist to preview the living things you’re most likely to see. With this list in hand as a field guide or scavenger hunt list, you’ll notice more and learn a lot!
HOW TO DO IT:

  1. Go to website https://www.iNaturalist.org.
  2. In “Explore” tab, “Map” view, zero in on the area you’ll be visiting. Hit the “Redo search in map” button.
  3. If you want to limit your search to plants, birds, insects, etc., put that in the “Species” box (to the right of “Explore”), and hit return. (You can even make the guide seasonally relevant: Use the “filters” tab to narrow observations to one or two months of the year.)
  4. Click on the “Species” tab (the tab that shows number of species). The view changes to a grid with the most observed species shown first. That’s your field guide!
  5. I like to screen-shot the first 30 pictures (in groups of 15) and print them out for a guide or scavenger hunt list that I can use in the field and check off each species as I find it.

BRANCH #4: Meet your biodiversity soulmates.

People who share your passion for passionflowers, or your liking for nature hiking, are on iNaturalist! You can meet them virtually or even face to face. TO FIND PEOPLE WHO LIKE OBSERVING YOUR FAVE TAXON in YOUR FAVE PLACE:

  1. On https://www.iNaturalist.org, click on Explore tab and Map mode.
  2. In the “Species” box, type a taxon (Salamanders, Plants, Tiger Beetles) and in the “Location” box type a location (“Tennessee”). Choose the appropriate drop-down choice.
  3. Click on the “Observers” tab to get a list of the main observers of that taxon in that region. Click on their names to get their profile and learn more about them. Then “follow” them, @tag them in a comment, or send a direct message to their inbox. (Be careful not to be a pest, of course.)

There's a whole world to discover in iNaturalist. Start exploring!

פורסם ב מאי 20, 2022 05:12 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

מרץ 07, 2022

Common Sphagnum peatmosses of south Mississippi

I got a request for resources to identify Sphagnum peatmosses in the field. What could be easier? Practically anything, turns out, because all the key identification characters for Sphagnum are microscopic. iNaturalist, unfortunately, is no help as its Computer Vision has not yet trained on Sphagnum, and it has a tendency to suggest everything is Crome Sphagnum and Prairie Peatmoss when they emphatically are not.

But, we aim to please, so here is a bare-bones draft resource to get started. I took 10 of the most common Sphagnum species in south Mississippi (should work nearby as well), divided them into groups based on how branch leaves look (with a hand lens), and provided links to more information and a photo for each. The photos, at bryophyteportal.org, also have the species description from Flora of North America -- I suggest you skip to the last paragraph for hints to identify each species in the field.

Here are the suggestions, and I'll revise over time to improve it. Good luck!

Branch leaves are hood-shaped and big enough to be individually counted rather easily (subgenus Sphagnum):

Sphagnum perichaetiale (no common name), dryer microhabitats, teddy bear look
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+perichaetiale

Sphagnum affine (imbricate bog-moss), dryish to wet but not inundated, often open
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+affine

Sphagnum portoricense (Puerto Rico sphagnum), wet, shady, “little palm trees”
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+portoricense

Sphagnum magellanicum (Magellan’s peatmoss), pitcherplant bogs, often purple
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+magellanicum

Sphagnum palustre (prairie peatmoss), shady wet seeps
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+palustre

Branch leaves are very long (over 5mm) and straight-tipped

Sphagnum macrophyllum (largeleaf peatmoss), wet and often inundated
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+macrophyllum

Branch leaves small and not easily counted

Sphagnum lescurii (yellow peatmoss), wet to dry habitats, soft and shapeless
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+lescurii

Sphagnum carolinianum (Carolina peatmoss), wet woods, bright green & a little spiky looking
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+carolinianum

Sphagnum cuspidatum (toothed peatmoss), inundated, “drowned kitten” look
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+cuspidatum

Sphagnum recurvum (recurved sphagnum), wet, dainty looking
https://bryophyteportal.org/portal/taxa/index.php?taxon=Sphagnum+recurvum

You can find lots of examples of each of these in my project "Peatmosses (Sphagnum) of the SE US" (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/peat-mosses-sphagnum-of-the-se-us)

פורסם ב מרץ 07, 2022 05:19 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 7 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

פברואר 28, 2022

Things frequently confused with Smilax.

I've been building a list of plants that people on iNaturalist tend to call "Smilax" when they aren't. Here's what I have so far, and I'll amend it when I get other examples. These are good ones to consider if you think you've got a Smilax but aren't sure.

Bengal trumpet, Thunbergia https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20442821 (Florida)
Carolina snailseed, Cocculus carolinus, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/107521471
Wild yam, Dioscorea villosa https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/91003720
Autumn Clematis, Clematis terniflora https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/107062350 (notice it actually has 3-part compound leaves that are opposite on the stem).
Viola, when first emerging, can look like Smilax herbacea or other non-woody Smilax.
Trillium https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/21396276
Elfin shoes Croomia pauciflora https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/47308078

Devil's walking stick, Aralia spinosa, https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/38480876
Stickseed, Hackelia virginiana (midwest) - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/63222149

Wild sarsaparilla, Aralis nudicaulis - https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/
(this doesn’t look like Smilax, but some people know the name “Sarsaparilla vine” for Smilax pumila and end up putting this label on it).

I've been fooled by some of these many times!

פורסם ב פברואר 28, 2022 10:15 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 6 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

ינואר 10, 2022

Smilax in N Alabama (Trip)

Hiking at Monte Sano State Park, Alabama plus Ruffner Mtn near Birmingham

פורסם ב ינואר 10, 2022 01:14 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 362 תצפיות | 0 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אפריל 18, 2021

The changeable life of Lance-leaf Greenbrier.

The greenbriers (Smilax) are infamously variable, but one species has what almost seems like a "larval" and "adult" form. Lance-leaf Greenbrier, Smilax smallii, grows primarily in woods. As a young plant (or what I assume is a young plant), it grows like a ground-cover low on the surface, with leaves designed to capture the minimal light that penetrates to the ground: large leaf surface, wide thin blades, and light color. I believe during its young years on the ground, it's storing up a large underground tuber. When the tuber reaches sufficient size, Smilax smallii sends up an amazing thick shoot that grows straight up, leafless but armed with prickles, toward the canopy. Once it encounters a branch it latches on with tendrils and then makes its way to the outer surface of the canopy, where it grows a dense covering of small, leathery, dark leaves, designed for high exposure.

One trail that I frequent has a large amount of Smilax smallii at ground level and in the canopy. Some canopy plants were recently felled in Hurricane Zeta. I took this opportunity to make observations to show the morphological variation.

(1) Ground-level S. smallii (large, triangular, variegated leaves with wavy margins; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68238364).

(2) Canopy-level (smaller, dark, lanceolate leaves, densely spaced; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68238366).

(3) The relatively rare intermediate low-climbing form (mid-size, slightly variegated, intermediate shape leaves; https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68238365).

(4) Here is one of the spectacular "reachers" growing straight up from ground to canopy (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41900217).

(5) And here is an example of the massive underground tuber that Smilax smallii stores as it grows (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/51459612)

פורסם ב אפריל 18, 2021 01:39 לפנה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 5 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

אפריל 10, 2021

Identifying Smilax sprouts

Both Lanceleaf and Laurel-leaf Greenbrier produce thick, asparagus-like “reacher” sprouts in springtime that can grow two meters or more without producing leaves. I was interested in ways to distinguish the two species at this stage. I visited six known patches of each species and inspected the “reachers” The results at least in Jackson County Mississippi were pretty clear.

Lanceleaf (Smilax smallii) sprouts all had brown mottling or streaking.

By contrast, Laurel-leaf (Smilax laurifolia) sprouts all lacked the brown streaking and were plain green.

Sample observations

Smilax smallii:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41952116
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41900217
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41547665

Smilax laurifolia:
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41938157
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/41547669

פורסם ב אפריל 10, 2021 05:35 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

ינואר 02, 2021

The “Seedbox” Ludwigias in winter.

If you live in the eastern half of the United States, you may know and love “Seedbox,” Ludwigia alternifolia, with its bright yellow four-petal flower and its intriguing cube-shaped seed capsule that persists through fall to form a classic part of the winter landscape.

If you’re in the coastal-plain fringes of the southeastern states, though, things are more complicated. There you have no fewer than four different seedbox-forming Ludwigias, all with four-petal yellow flowers, and all with cube-shaped seed capsules that last through winter. Some details of flower and leaf structure distinguish them in the blooming season, but what about over winter?

(The ranges of the four seedbox Ludwigias are shown at
(http://bonap.net/Napa/TaxonMaps/Genus/County/Ludwigia). Look for L. alternifolia, L. hirtella, L. maritima and L. virgata.)

Ludwigia alternifolia, the widespread Seedbox, is a profusely branched plant with many seed capsules, each borne on a pedicel that is shorter than the capsule (the other species have longer pedicels). Each box-like capsule has a round pore in its top, surrounded by four flat nectary discs. The tiny seeds escape through the pore or are dropped when the capsule disintegrates. The combination of branching habit, short pedicels and flat nectary discs on the box-like seed capsule is usually sufficient to identify L. alternifolia in winter, even where other seedbox Ludwigias are present.

A second species, Ludwigia hirtella, Spindleroot, has a seedbox and stem covered with conspicuous long hairs that make it hard to confuse with any of the other seedbox Ludwigias. Spindleroot grows in flatwoods and bogs of the coastal plain from Virginia to Texas.

The real identification problem concerns the other two seedbox Ludwigias, L. maritima (Seaside Primrose-Willow) and L. virgata (Savanna Primrose-Willow), found near the coast from North Carolina to Mississippi and on the Florida peninsula. Both have smooth, box-shaped seed capsules borne on wandlike, relatively unbranched stems. In contrast to L. alternifolia, both have plump nectary discs that appear as lumps around the pore at the top of the seed capsule. As the range of these two species nearly coincides, and they are not clearly differentiated by habitat, I wanted to determine if there are characters that could be used to distinguish these species’ winter seedboxes.

Ludwigia maritima was first described as a species by Harper in 1904. He distinguished it from L. virgata on the basis of several characters, most of which were in the flower, but he described the seed capsule of L. virgata as “very slightly winged on the angles” and the capsule of L. maritima as “distinctly winged on the angles.” He also included a comparative sketch with showed the capsule of L. maritima as larger and more inflated than in L. virgata (Torreya 4:161-4).

Capsule size difference is mentioned in two widely used works. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas (1964, Radford, Ahles, and Bell) notes that L. virgata’s capsules are “5-7 mm long, 3.5-5 mm broad” and the species is found in “bogs and low savannahs,” whereas L. maritima’s capsules are “6-10 mm long, 4.5-7 mm broad” with the species growing in “savannahs, ditches and low pinelands.” Both are described as cubical, 4-angled, and narrowly winged. Godfrey and Wooten (1981, Aquatic and Wetland Plants of the Southeastern United States) described the capsule of L. virgata as “hard, 5-7 mm long, 3.5-5 mm broad” with seeds 0.5-0.8 mm long, compared to L. maritima capsules “tending to fracture easily, 6-10 mm long, 4.5-8 mm broad, seeds usually not exceeding 0.5 mm long,” with habitats for the two species similar except that in addition to wetlands, L. virgata is found “not infrequently on well-drained sandy pinelands.”

So seed capsules of L. maritima are said to be taller, broader, and more distinctly winged on the angles than capsules of L. virgata. Can these characters be used for winter identification?

I had made a number of observations of both species to iNaturalist.org during the flowering season, when they were relatively easy to identify. In late December, I returned to sites of observations I’d made in Jackson County, Mississippi, to look for winter capsules, and succeeded in finding three stalks of each species (from different sites) that contained seed capsules. I measured 7 capsules on each plant (height including nectary discs, breadth) as well as the capsule pedicel length, and l looked for other characters that might help in winter identification.

The capsules of L. maritima were noticeably and significantly larger than those of L. virgata, with a small amount of overlap (Table 1). In general, L. maritima capsules had dimensions greater than 6.5mm x 5 mm, and L. virgata capsules measured less than 6 mm x 5mm. Although this may seem like a small difference, it was readily apparent when the capsules were side by side. There was no difference in pedicel length. Only one of the six plants had distinctly winged capsules, so that feature was not particularly helpful in distinguishing species.

Table 1. Capsule measurements
Ludwigia maritima

height (mm) width (mm)
mean 7.04 5.33
stdev 0.42 0.38
N 21 21

Ludwigia virgata

height (mm) width (mm)
mean 5.58 4.20
stdev 0.44 0.55
N 21 21

The capsules of the two species were also shaped differently, with the larger L. maritima capsules more bowed out on the sides like a barrel. When viewed from the top, the nectary discs of the smaller L. virgata capsules appeared to take up more of the top surface, and each disc was ringed by silvery hairs not seen on the discs of L. maritima.

Godfrey and Wooten’s observation that the small L. virgata capsule is “hard” and the larger L. maritima capsule “tends to fracture easily” was also borne out during handling of the seed capsules.

I conclude that it should be possible to distinguish the two Ludwigias from their winter capsules alone if they can be measured, and that they should also be able to be distinguished in photographs where the nectary discs are clearly visible and there is a good sense of scale.

The six plants used in this investigation:

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428016
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428011
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428009
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428015
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428014
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/67428010

פורסם ב ינואר 02, 2021 12:01 לפנה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 6 תגובות | הוספת תגובה

נובמבר 10, 2017

Mysteries on the doorstep - solved by iNaturalist

Here's a place where iNaturalist shines.

We live on a salt marsh, and after Hurricane Nate we had tons of old marshgrass spread across our yard. In the process of cleaning it up, we discovered two new creatures, a bizarre-looking grasshopper and a weird, extremely flat very small bug. The grasshoppers were astoundingly well camouflaged in dead marsh grass unless they moved. The bugs weren't camouflaged; they settled on walls. Though there were hundreds, or thousands, of both, they were completely new to us.

My insect ID skills are pretty rudimentary, so I entered photos of both into iNaturalist. The robo identifier got the grasshopper (Leptysma marginicollis, cattail toothpick grasshopper) right away. It couldn't ID the flat bug, which was hard to photograph, but within a couple of weeks someone had suggested family Blissidae, which was enough hint for me to find Ischnodemus falicus, a salt marsh chinch bug that lives hidden in the leaf sheaths of one of the major marsh grasses. Two lovely salt marsh specialists that we had never seen in 10 years living here! And which would have remained a mystery if not for iNaturalist.

פורסם ב נובמבר 10, 2017 08:35 אחה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 2 תצפיות | תגובה 1 | הוספת תגובה

How not to get started in iNaturalist

I don't see people using iNaturalist posts much, but I've had a few thoughts about this resource that it might be useful to jot down. Not that they'll get much circulation, but maybe someday they'll come in handy. So here's one thought.

I joined iNaturalist a couple of months ago and right away made a tactical error. I had a collection of single photos of plant species that I'd identified (about 700 of them), so I just loaded them onto iNaturalist in the first couple of weeks. I didn't first figure out the system, that you need to work up a group of people with similar taxonomic interests or similar geography, and typically they will be the ones who review your observations as they come in. I had no community, so my several hundred plant observations languished unreviewed, and they quickly got buried in the sands of time.

Since then, some of those submissions have been stumbled upon and reviewed, and I've prevailed on several of you to look back at specific old submissions, and people have been very congenial and cooperative. But if I had had a better idea of how IDs on iNaturalist worked, I wouldn't have done that data dump. I'd have submitted a few things but spent more time identifying other people's observations and getting to know the observers a bit.

פורסם ב נובמבר 10, 2017 03:44 לפנה"צ על־ידי janetwright janetwright | 2 תגובות | הוספת תגובה