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Plant and Flower Identification Apps

Thursday, April 11, 2019

If you have spent any time outside in the past week you've probably noticed that wildflowers are coming up. If you have a smartphone, you actually have the ability to determine precisely what kind of wildflower (or plant, or tree) it is you are looking at.

There are (generally) two different kinds of apps. Field guides that work like plant identification books and walk you through the identification process, and photo identification apps.

For photo identification apps, you'll need to have a very clear picture, and generally one that clearly shows the flower and the leaves and stem. This means getting down low if you want to identify a spring wildflower (which is generally only a few inches above the ground. These apps will also want your location, since that makes it easier to help identify the plant. (What is blooming in April in Morgantown, WV is very different from what is blooming in April in Fairbanks, AK.)

Most of these apps are free, which is often a concern, but you'll notice many are published by universities, or are associated with research projects. So when you use, say, iNaturalist, you're contributing to a research project, which is a good thing!

So you can now use your cell phone as an excuse to get outside and walk around in nature!

iNaturalist - https://www.inaturalist.org/

This is the app that I use all the time. You take a picture of a plant or creature with your cell phone or camera--preferably with location services / GPS enabled, then upload it to iNaturalist.org where you can have the app do a basic identification for you. After you post the picture, community members then help identify what the plant / creature is.

"Every observation can contribute to biodiversity science, from the rarest butterfly to the most common backyard weed. We share your findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use your data. All you have to do is observe. "

Available for iOS and Android, as well as through the website.

PlantSnap - https://www.plantsnap.com/

"Instantly identify plants of all kinds, anywhere in the world! Flowers, trees, succulents, mushrooms and more can be quickly recognized with PlantSnap by Earth.com, the mobile app built to help you identify flowers, plants & trees in a snap.

PlantSnap is free to use but requires an email registration. Your email login is used to store your anonymous photos and plant details in your own secure PlantSnap account, allow you to access your account on any device including your laptop or computer, and to secure the PlantSnap servers from hackers."

Available for iOS and Android

Pl@ntNet - https://plantnet.org/en/

Identify, explore and share your observations of wild plants. Pl@ntNet is a citizen science project available as an app that helps you identify plants thanks to your pictures. This project is part of the Floris’Tic initiative.

Available for iOS and Android

WV Native Plant Society Facebook Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/231698280260622/

This is a Facebook group for WV plants and flowers.

West Virginia Wildflowers

This is a field guide app for Android and iOS that walks you through the plant identification process. If you'd like to learn how to identify plants, rather than just taking a picture and finding an automatic match, this is the app to help you learn.

Available for iOS and Android

Virginia Tech Tree ID 

"Virginia Tech Tree Identification brings the award winning Virginia Tech digital dendrology material to your Android smart phone. It contains fact sheets for over 1000 woody plants from all over North America with an in-depth description, range map and thousands of color images of leaves, flowers, fruit, twigs, bark and form."

Available for iOS and Android

LeafSnap - http://leafsnap.com/

"Leafsnap is a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The free mobile apps use visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. They contain beautiful high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruits, petioles, seeds and bark."

Only for iOS