Flower apps and plant ID tools keep getting better. Are you an amateur botanist, a hiker confronted by an unfamiliar tree on a trail, or a gardener who snaps a photo of a mystery plant you’d like to grow? There’s an app for that. Here’s a roundup of 10 mobile apps to identify wildflowers, trees, and houseplants:
Photography by Finding Species via Leafsnap.
Above: From Top to Bottom are Chinese Fringetree, Chinese Toon, and Chinkapin Oak.
Leafsnap uses visual recognition software to identify all 185 tree species in the Northeastern US from photos of their leaves. (Coincidentally, Leafsnap was developed by my friend Peter Belhumeur, a researcher at Columbia University.) The high-resolution images were created by the conservation organization. Finding Species.
An interactive plant ID app, Pl@ntNet allows you to take photos of plant parts (such as bark, leaf, or flower) and upload them to compare with images in the app’s botanical databases to find the closest matches. Developed by French researchers, the app’s databases contain 3,700 species found in French.
An app to identify Florida wildflowers, filtering them by such characteristics as number of petals and bloom color, Flowerida is 99 cents and optimized for iPhone 5.
Says developer Eric Beard, “So far I have only visited parks and preserves within a few hours of Tampa, so the images are a good sample of what’s common in Southwest Florida. I have 92 images in the app so far, with another dozen or so that I’ve identified but haven’t added yet. And beyond that I have about a dozen that I can’t identify, despite digging through a giant stack of wildflower books.”
Above: From Top to Bottom are Cornelian Cherry, Cucumbertree Magnolia, and Downy Serviceberry.
The Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California has 250 square miles of parks and open space preserves and is one of the most popular destinations in the state for hikers. If you’re one of them, become a botanist for the day. Download the National Park Service’s free SMM Wildflowers app, which has more than 7,500 photos to help you identify 1,000 rare and common plants that grow in the area.
(Most recently updated in March 2014 to add 200 new photos and 11 new plants to the database, SMM Wildflowers is compatible with both iPhones and iPads.)
Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier
With free app Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier, you can take a photo of a problem plant–a yellow leaf, a troubling spot, a scaly stem–and upload it to ID the disease and get recommendations for curing it. Updated in March 2014, version 1.2 requires iOS 6.0 or later.
A series of 23 mobile app Audubon Guides on flora and fauna includes Audubon Wildflowers, a comprehensive field guide to North American wildflowers. The app costs $4.99 (of which 8 percent of the price goes to support Audubon’s conservation efforts to protect endangered birds and wildlife).
Above: From Top to Bottom, Edible Fig, Empress Tree, and English Elm.
The Ultimate Guide to House Plants
The Ultimate Guide to House Plants is free but a $3.99 expansion pack is necessary to unlock all its features. The app has more than 1,000 photos to help you ID and care for houseplants. Updated in January 2014, it requires iOS 6.1 or later.
Developed for Android, FlowerChecker is a plant ID service that allows you to upload a photo and have it identified by a team of humans who charge $1 per identification (one free trial per user).
PlantSnapp’s, developed by a 23-year-old UK-based amateur botanist, relies on a network of horticultural experts to identify more than 6,000 plants through photos you upload–and recommend a UK nursery that stocks it.
Above: From Top to Bottom, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Sweetgum, and Swiss Pine.
Updated in March 2014, free NatureGate requires no Internet connection after you download a Flower Identification Tool for more than 700 species. For $2.99 apiece, you can add on bird, fish, and butterfly identification tools. For our review of the app, see DIY: ID Plants and Flowers, There’s an App for That.