How to add trees to iNaturalist digital records for the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy

This post offers step-by-step instructions on adding trees to the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy (EAC) project on iNaturalist. This same approach could be useful for other public planting projects.

Note that the latest instructions for this effort have been moved to a different format. While I kicked off these instructions with an interest in mutualism with trees + digital commons, the project and instructions are moving into the hands of a broader group of public servants and practitioners. You can find the latest version of instructions in the project description at

For reference, the original instructions are offered below.

Project Description

The EAC is a collection of precious tree crop genetics that have been planted for observation, propagation, and respectful enjoyment by the public. This project is centered in Northampton County, PA where county parks embraced the idea, honoring and extending the work of the Hershey Tree Nursery in Downingtown, PA.

Trees in this multi-generational project are documented in 3 ways: labeled where they are planted with a unique ID, in paper records matching ID, and in a digital iNaturalist project with matching ID. Digital record-keeping of trees in iNaturalist has a few benefits. In short: it is a robust platform with a broad like-minded user base; it allows commenting and updating/adding observations to record seasonal effects; and it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere.

Observations of trees can be added to the EAC project by anyone, anywhere. The project is moderated, so that observations unsuitable for the project will be culled. The project welcomes observations of new plantings and additional observations of existing trees in the project.


Here is how you add an observation to the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy project on iNaturalist. Each step has an accompanying screenshot or two for clarity, taken from an Android-based smartphone. Click an image to view a larger version.

This tutorial assumes you have already installed iNaturalist, setup a user account, and joined the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy project. You can visit that project page at any time, from a browser link or in the iNaturalist app, to view observations and edit it or add comments.

  1. Open iNaturalist and log in if needed. When the app is open, click the green plus button to add an observation (see bottom-right of screenshot below).
iNaturalist phone app home page

2. Select a method for how you want to add an observation image. If your phone has its location feature enabled, photos you take will come with GPS coordinates, which will be convenient in marking the location of your observation.

iNaturalist phone app adding an observation

3. Add images to your observation. After your first added image, you can add others by clicking the camera-and-plus icon shown in the top-left of the screenshot below.

iNaturalist phone app adding an observation with 2 images already included

4. Type a general description of the observation after adding images. You can leave this blank if you want. The description is helpful for an overall summary about the observation, while details about cultivars will be entered in later steps.

iNaturalist phone app adding an observation with description entered

5. Click “Add to project(s)” on the bottom of the ‘Edit Observation’ screen you had added images and a description on, to bring up a list of projects you’ve joined. Select the “Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy” project.

iNaturalist phone app adding an observation to a project.

6. Add project-specific details. When you select the “Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy” as the project you want to add your observation to, new fields will appear for you to add more details about the tree observed. Begin filling in the values you can – some are optional, some are required. The next step explains these project-specific fields more.

iNaturalist app after selecting a project to add an observation to.

7. Project-specific fields for the EAC are as follows. Complete at least the required ones

  • Cultivar (optional): what is the name of this unique tree variety?
  • Original location (required): where did this planting come from?
  • Planting year (required): roughly when was this tree planted? Even if you do not know, we ask that you enter a guess, so to avoid undated species that only get harder to estimate an age for over time.
  • Catalog number (optional): this should be added to match hard-copy catalog numbers tagged on trees and in the EAC master records.
  • Propagation method (required): is the observed tree a seedling or some kind of clone?
  • Rootstock (optional): if grafted and rootstock is known.
  • Noted agroforestry strength (optional): qualities to know about this observed tree for agroforestry applications.
iNaturalist app with project-specific fields for the Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy
iNaturalist app observation fields for EAC project.

8. Submit your observation! When you’ve completed observation details for the EAC project, you’ll see the number to the right of the “Projects” row increase to at least 1. Select the green circle with a check at bottom-center of the screen to submit.

iNaturalist app page for adding observation with all fields complete.

After submitting your observation, you’ll see your observations list and a note that the app is syncing.

iNaturalist page with observation added and syncing.

With those steps complete, the EAC project on iNaturalist now has a record of the observed tree.

You can visit the EAC project on iNaturalist to view include species. Select an observation to view its location, edit/add to it, or comment on it. Join the EAC project on iNaturalist to hear announcements and follow updates.

For more advanced uses, drop a comment here or on iNaturalist, or contact Eastern Agroforestry Conservancy team members. Trees from this project can be imported or exported into other mapping software like QGIS, Google Earth, or spreadsheets.

iNaturalist page showing observations in EAC project.
EAC project page displaying observations as a list. On a PC, you can view project observations as a map!
Screenshot of iNaturalist project page for EAC viewed from PC, showing map of observed species in project.
Screenshot of iNaturalist project page for EAC viewed from PC, showing map of observed species in project.
iNaturalist page showing an observation in EAC project.
Page for an observed tree in the EAC project.

What do you think?