How to learn your flora in 2019

Crunchy brown leaves, drab gray skies, and a lot of snow didn’t stop Illinois plant enthusiasts from botanizing this past winter.

The Illinois Native Plant Society has run the Illinois Botanists Big Year competition each year since 2016, using the iNaturalist.org platform. Anyone may participate, from professional botanists to plant identification novices, by uploading photographic proof of their plant sightings. Through the website or mobile apps, botanical enthusiasts upload photos, a species identification, GPS location, date of sighting, and field notes. Since other users and iNat’s automated image recognition feature can help with identification, participants don’t need to be plant experts.

Past participants have used the contest as a personal challenge to learn previously overlooked groups of plants or ecosystems. In 2018 we collectively found almost 1,500 different species of plants. Erin Faulkner (@elfaulkner) documented the most species: over 860 verified by the community! View the full 2018 results and flex your ID skills by helping identify plants for other participants.

Want to join in the fun? Just add your plant photos to the iNaturalist.org website or iPhone/Android app and it’ll automatically count toward the contest if it meets the rules below:

  • Must be a plant (bryophytes and vascular plants – native and nonnative species are accepted).
  • Observation must be within Illinois.
  • Must be observed between the dates of January 1st, 2019 and December 31st, 2019.
  • Observation must be “research grade.” That means it must be
  • “wild/naturalized” and that you need a photo, date, location, and at least two people to agree on the species, to confirm the identification accuracy.