There are a lot of reasons why being able to identify plants is a useful skill. If you’re a gardener, knowing weeds and invasive species from beneficial plants is essential to a healthy garden, while if you ever find yourself in the wild, knowing what’s poisonous or what’s edible can save your life. It’s also a good idea to know what plants you should give a wide berth to, because some (like the Giant hogweed) can cause horrible blisters and even permanent scars. On the most basic level, it’s fun to know what types are flowers and plants grow in your area.
What is Plantsnap?
The traditional way to learn plant identification is to scour the pages of a botany book. This is a tedious process because you have to pay attention to every aspect of a plant, like if the leaves have tips or not, how many points they have, the shape of the flower, and so on. Now, with the power of technology, plant ID is lightning-fast, entertaining, and educational.
In the last year, online science magazine Earth.com released an app that lets you take pictures of foliage and identify it in seconds. Inspired by the founder’s inability to identify a flower a few years back, Plantsnap was crowdfunded. Equipped with artificial intelligence, Plantsnap began with a catalog of over 220,000 species of herbs, flowers, mushrooms, and more, and is constantly growing. Information includes a plant’s scientific and common names, if it’s edible, and more.
Trying out the app
So, how does it work? I purchased the app and took a bunch of photos of flowers, including ones at the Portland International Rose Test Garden. I uploaded them into the app (you can also take photos within the app) and in just a few seconds, the AI offered me suggestions. It works best with a Wi-Fi signal, though it will work on LTE. That will use up data from your plan.
With pictures of the options, I compared them to my photos. What I learned is that the quality of the photo I took really mattered. Sometimes I would get a handful of options, and then it was up to my own skill to decide which one was right. You want to get really close and get the flowers and leaves in focus. You don’t want a picture of the whole plant. It’s also really important that the photo is as clear as possible. If it’s blurry, the AI takes longer to come up with options, and you may not get the answer you want. You should also remember to only get one type of plant in the photo, especially if you’re taking a snap of something from a bouquet.
What you can learn
The amount of info you get when you ID a plant is really impressive. I took a photo of my succulent, which I knew was a Jade plant. The app not only correctly ID’d it, but gave me the species (crassula ovata) and an educational description where I learned the plant is also called the money tree or friendship tree. Apparently, under the right conditions, it can grow little flowers, though I’ve never seen them. I was happy to learn that the plant’s rich green color is ideal, and it means I’ve been doing a good job keeping it out of harsh sunlight.
Plantsnap could become a really amazing tool for classrooms and parents with curious kids. As someone who is neither a parent or a teacher, I find the app fun, too. It costs $3.99 and can be connected to your Facebook or Gmail account. Download today and start snapping!
Into phone apps? Check out ones designed to help you boost your memory.