peterapp's picture

Grass in flower

Observed: 3rd August 2012 By: peterapp

As a hay-fever sufferer I hate grasses (during June and July). By August I can appreciate them.

Species interactions

No interactions present.

Species with which Hoary Plantain (Plantago media) interacts


lavateraguy's picture

In the forums I have recently discussed several reasons why ...

... individual identifications can be wrong.

This displays several of them

1) Limited information - in this case we have an inflorescence, but no foliage or habit information.

2) Expectation bias - because the observation was originally identified as a grass I interpreted the image under the presumption that it was a grass (plantains aren't bad grass mimics so it would still be possible to make the error without expectation bias).

3) Locality bias - Plantago media is a limestone plant and I don't know it.

peterapp's picture

identifications can be wrong...

In respect of the points you make...
Limited info: I have already told myself to start photographing more parts of the plants. However, because I am currently working through a small backlog of "unidentified" subjects I cannot always recall the precise details of habit or habitat. When submitting newly photographed material that will be less of a constraint.

Expectation bias: I hadn't considered this aspect. Perhaps I should refrain from "leading the witness", and post everything without any suggested id?

Locality: I didn't know that plant either. But on referencing my copy of "Wildflowers of Britain & Ireland" by Blamey, Fitter & Fitter, I see on the same page an illustration of Greater Plaintain. Their distribution map suggests that this is a more likely match than Hoary Plantain.

A photographer first; a field naturalist second.

lavateraguy's picture

My comments weren't directed at you ...

... but were intended as an illustration of the hazards of identifications on iSpot. (for context see

One of the purposes of iSpot is education - to help people learn to identify plants. In general one is likely to learn faster by attempting identifications and getting them right or wrong (learning by doing), rather than just observing identifications being made. So I think that expectation bias is just something we have to live with.

I've looked at the BSBI database map for Plantago media. Your site is within its range, though reading between the lines it may be relatively uncommon is that region. (Plantago lanceolata is ubiquitous - I've read that it is the mostly widely distributed plant in Britain.)

I would hope that I would have recognised Plantago lanceolata - though I have to take a second glance a few times this year to distinguish the fruiting stems from those of Luzula campestris. I still think that this is Plantago media, but I can't be absolutely sure without the foliage.

peterapp's picture

I hadn't interpreted you comments...

... as being any kind of direct criticism. My reply was intended to show that I was trying to take on board the message that you were conveying, as I understood it.

I'm here to learn (until I feel able and confident enough to start teaching others).

A photographer first; a field naturalist second.

dejayM's picture

write stuff

Well done and said Peter(app).
I see you have been here only a few days but you seem to be destined for some good posting.
I would support lavaterguy wholly in his assertion that posts with limited information may not get the right or accurate attention - it is a valuable point but is best seen in the context he suggests.
On that basis alone we should ALWAYS add a few notes to posts (you added more than most!) As many descriptive words as you can muster (in Description); a short summary in ID Notes; and two or three words in Location Notes. It seems a lot to do but I can promise you it is worth it.
But also see how lavaterguy goes on to support your quest for an ID and gives more, far more. Very valuable.
And notice too that, eventually, a correct ID emerges, with agreements from experts - he is.

lavateraguy's picture

Not an expert

I don't qualify as an expert. (I might be worth a "knowledgeable" badge, but there are several others who are equally deserving.)

dejayM's picture

100 thousand

Don't mean on yourself - I stalk you remember!
(100,000 observations and rising) - do you mean ten?

lavateraguy's picture

100 thouand

I've got records from 249 tetrads, and probably more sites (some sites cross tetrad boundaries, but tetrads also contain multiple sites). Combining that with records from multiple years and I have 10 species and 3 aggregates (bramble, dandelion, ivy*) with other 1000 records each, and another 40 taxa with over 500 records. That's a lot of records requiring very little expertise - just a lot of walking and scribbling in notebooks - I exceeded 1,000 records one day.

But there's a long tail - I should have comfortably over 1,000 taxa recorded. There are over 1,400 names in my records, but data cleaning (misspelled names, uncertain records, underresolved taxa, cultivated plants misrecorded as wild, ...) would pull that down. On the other hand there's about a score of species I've seen outside the two counties I'm recording in.

You shouldn't let my command of taxonomy and jargon mislead you into overestimating my identification skills.

*Hedera helix agg. = Hedera helix sensu lato = Hedera helix+Hedera hibernica.

dejayM's picture


Yes then, that's spectacular.