April Challenges

I hope everyone is doing well and has had an opportunity to visit some of the many burned sites throughout California. As we approach the end of March and jump into April, we are excited to bring to you a few new challenges to start the new month!

Usually the saying is “April showers bring May flowers,” but our season starts early: March showers bring April flowers! So starting April 1st, we will be holding our first month-long challenge! The April Flowers Challenge will start on Thursday, April 1 and finish on Friday, April 30. The person who makes the most plant observations in April will be rewarded with a Fire Follower Shirt! The winner will be announced the following week on May 7th, so don't forget to upload your observations by the end of the day on Friday!

Second, starting April 1st, we will also be holding our new April Fools challenge! A lot of us can be fooled by the good-looking computer-aided suggestions, but check again! Is the plant suggested even found in that region? This challenge will reward the top 3 plant identifiers--non-redeemable bonus points for weeding out those foolish computer-based identifications. Our April Fools Challenge officially starts April 1st and will conclude on Sunday, April 11. Winners from this challenge will receive a Fire Follower Pin!

Good luck and help us identify during these challenges! We understand that not everyone has access to burned sites and it might be difficult to venture out at the moment. Identifying is something that everyone can help with.
1) There are currently approximately 63 plant observations with no ID at all. Even if you do not know the species, you can help by identifying the observation to a finer level such as identifying the family, which is extremely helpful for others. Also, feel free to use the comment section to let others know what you're thinking! https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?iconic_taxa=unknown&project_id=california-fire-followers-2020
2) There are also approximately 3846 plant observations that still need help with IDs. You can help by confirming IDs that have already been made, refining IDs from general to more specific and correcting mis-identifications. The Suggestions tab will offer similar plants seen in the area--make sure you check it’s a good match. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/identify?iconic_taxa=Plantae&project_id=california-fire-followers-2020
3)To find likely mis-identifications, look at the Species tab of one of the fire areas you know pretty well. Scroll down to the bottom and look at the plants that only have one or two observations. Check on any out of range observations or plants you know are ornamental.

To learn more about making observations, check out this iNaturalist tutorial! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlXjqfk2QGI&t=8s

As a reminder, winners will be contacted via iNaturalist messages, so keep an eye out for any messages from me in case you win!

Posted by jaesparza11 jaesparza11, March 30, 2021 16:57


I wanted to update the group on the Whispering Bells at Sugarloaf. I have been finding them in almost every area of burned chaparral, but most are not blooming yet. There are some blooming, and more each day, on Bald Mountain Trail just above the intersection with Lower Bald Mountain Trail. They are blooming right on the shoulder of the trail, and are not hard to find.

Posted by dlevitis 6 months ago (Flag)

Ooh thanks. I hope to be in Sugarloaf on Thursday and generally I have tomorrow and Thursday to drive from Winters to Santa Rosa and see what I can find (partly roadsides, but also Sugarload and/or Trione-Annadel presumably).

Posted by jimkingdon 6 months ago (Flag)

This is a tough crowd for plant ID. I should have expected that from a project run by botanists lol

Edit: I meant you all are doing a such a good job I can't improve upon it much--if you didn't already know what something was, I don't either!

Posted by arboretum_amy 6 months ago (Flag)

Plant ID isn't just an issue here, it is an issue everywhere. Perhaps because there are too many plant species? (although I suppose we can test that hypothesis by asking whether we're a tough crowd for beetle ID too - for what it is worth I rarely get a beetle IDed to species and as for my own ability to identify, on a good day I can help with plants but I'm lucky if I know an insect is a beetle or not, much less what kind of beetle).

Posted by jimkingdon 6 months ago (Flag)

I meant you all are doing a such a good job I can't improve upon it much--if you didn't already know what something was, I don't either!

Posted by arboretum_amy 6 months ago (Flag)

To return to the mention of Whispering Bells, I just wanted to say that https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/32713575 is a truly inspiring Fire Follower photo. It is easy for me to get caught up in "oh, I didn't see anything rare" or "I was there at the wrong time to see things (in flower/active/non-dormant/whatever)" or "I didn't get a good photo" or "I can't ID this and I don't know how to find someone who can" or any of the other setbacks, but seeing a photo like this regenerates my enthusiasm - just how well it shows both the charred branches and the regrowth.

Posted by jimkingdon 6 months ago (Flag)

Thanks for the update, @dlevitis !

Posted by jaesparza11 6 months ago (Flag)

@arboretum_amy Thanks for providing the links, I went ahead and added them to the post!

Posted by jaesparza11 6 months ago (Flag)

Ah yes that version of the link is a lot shorter. I couldn't figure out how to do it like that, but I'm glad it works.

The portion of the URL that says &place_id=any is important to those with a default location set in account settings. Or you can remember to turn your default off.

Posted by arboretum_amy 6 months ago (Flag)

@dlevitis Thank you for the whispering bells report. I found them today exactly where you said, in the flowering stage you reported. ( https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/72657634 , https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/72657512 , and https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/72657328 ). I too found them relatively widely distributed in burned areas, although more numerous some places than others.

Posted by jimkingdon 6 months ago (Flag)

@jimkingdom That is a gorgeous shot!

Are the prizes per fire/fire complex or for the overall project?

Posted by spifferella 6 months ago (Flag)

@spifferella The prizes are for the overall project!

Posted by jaesparza11 6 months ago (Flag)

The Whispering Bells on the North side of Bald Mountain Trail are amazing (in their pale, humble way)! Saw tons on Monday April 5th!

Posted by lesli 6 months ago (Flag)

Quick Update: Congratulations to @graysquirrel @arboretum_amy @californiarowan for winning the April Fools Challenge! Great job identifying observations from 4/1-4/11! I have already messaged you all, but be sure to respond by this Sunday 4/18 to receive your Fire Followers Pins! Thanks to everyone who participated and remember that our April Flower Challenge is still ongoing!

Posted by jaesparza11 6 months ago (Flag)

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