The Shazam for Plants: The Easiest Way to Identify Flora from a Picture

The app Shazam changed my life. If you haven’t tried it, Shazam works by capturing a sound bite of a song. It returns the artist, song title, and album. Not only does it make cheating at trivia easier (*ahem* I mean, who would do that?) but it also takes away that nagging uncertainty of having an unknown song stuck in my head.

I use it so much that I wish Shazam would expand to other facets of my life. Wouldn’t it be great if they made a gardening app to easily identify plants? It only there was a plants database so I could snap a picture of that beautiful flower growing by the side of the road, find it in my local garden store, and plant it on the side of my house.

Apps like Pl@ntNet now give us the tools to identify plants growing in the wild, or your neighbor’s bright flower bed. A team of researchers from France and the Tela Botanica Network had the idea to take the same type of technology available from Shazam and facial recognition. They customized it using photo images and tied it into a large social network. The result: turning unknown plants into garden answers for us amateur botanists.

Why Was it Developed?

The app was initially developed to identify and share information about flowering plants in France. The team hoped to promote the discovery of rare species, helping them flourish without the use of pesticides. They also wanted to identify invasive plants to track their expansion.

The team hopes the app can be expanded and become a forging resource. The database would then also identify plants that have medicinal value, native plants in the wild that are edible, and identify poisonous varieties.

The team hopes the app can be expanded and become a forging resource. The database would then also identify plants that have medicinal value, native plants in the wild that are edible, and identify poisonous varieties.

This would provide adventurers and foragers with a mobile field guide to help them to explore their local environment. Eventually, it could be used as a tool to bring classrooms into the great outdoors, creating an educational experience that ends in organic, pesticide free, naturally growing herbs and other useful plants.

How Does it Work?

These plant identification apps use a visual recognition software to identify plant species based on their basic characteristics. The app looks at leaf shape, flower color, and other identifiers to find a match between the photograph and the database’s specifications.

It can currently provide detailed information about a variety of tree species as well as flowering plants. What’s great about the technology is it grows as you use it. As users contribute information to the image database, key characteristics about the plant are logged into the system.

The botany experts on the French research team verify the information it is uploaded to make sure only authentic data is added to the database.

The “plantifier” app currently has a database capable of identifying thousands of species in the USA, Canada, and Western Europe, with the database growing in South America, the Carribean, and the tropics.

How Can I Find It?

You can download Pl@ntNet gardening app from the Google app store and it is available for both Android and iPhone devices.