Though I’m very interested in plants, I’m terrible at identifying plant species and remembering plant names. (That’s probably why I’m a plant physiologist.) I’m pretty sure there are other folks reading this blog that also have this “problem”.
For people like us, wouldn’t it be great if we could take photos of plants with our smartphones or tablets and have an online botanist or horticulturist identify the plant for us? (Dream on, right?)
But it’s not a just a dream, it’s now a reality. There are at least a couple of remarkable apps available that may help you to determine a plant from your photos.
One app that I’ve recently used is Garden Compass (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and requires iOS 6.0 or later. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.)
Here’s the way it works:
(1) After installing the app, you can take a photo inside the app or select a photo from your camera role. (Note: The first time you use the plant identification function, the app asks your permission to access your camera role. The app may also ask you to turn on location services under the “Privacy” settings on your device – this turns on the GPS.)
(2) Once you snap a photo or select a picture from your camera roll, a text box appears below the photo to allow you to add comments about the plant.
(3) When you touch the “send e-mail” button, the app will likely ask you for permission to use your location. (This, I presume, is mainly to help them ID the plant. But I notice that after you send e-mail, the app asks you if you want to see closest garden retailers in your area. So this is likely part of how they make money. More about this below.)
(4) If you are okay with the app using your location, then you are redirected to your e-mail app where you can see/edit your draft e-mail message before you send it to Garden Compass. (I noticed that not only is your geolocation included in the e-mail but also your device ID.) If you’re cool with this (I didn’t mind), then touch “Send” and your e-mail message blasts off into the “cloud”.
(5) If Garden Compass has received your e-mail message, you will receive e-mail confirmation within a few minutes. They also tell you what position you are in their queue. (The times I used Garden Compass, I ended up with 500 to 600 people ahead of me.)
(6) Despite the long line ahead of me, I received e-mail messages from Garden Compass with my plant identifications in under 5 hours. Each was spot on.
Two thumbs up for Garden Compass
I must say I was pretty impressed with the Garden Compass app, and I didn’t even use all of its features. In addition to garden plant ID, they also provide a “Problem ID” service. This is to help you identify plant diseases or plant insect pests. Since I didn’t use this feature I can’t comment on its accuracy.
I also can’t comment on how well this app works on the identification of wild plants. I presume their aim is mostly restricted to domesticated plants.
Since this app is free, you may be wondering how they monetize it. Well, along with providing you plant information, they also facilitate you buying stuff, mainly from them. This app is part of a larger venture called Garden Compass that you can read about here.
Perhaps the Garden Compass app is a marketing strategy for the Garden Compass online store. If so, it may be a brilliant one. My hat’s off to them, because, in my experience, this app delivers accurate garden plant IDs within several hours…for “free”. (Yes, you do provide them your information, however, and photo submissions are limited to 20 per month.)
But can providing employment for botanists and horticulturists be bad? I think not.
Next Time: Another plant identification app…for Android devices.
Disclaimer: I receive no financial remuneration or any other support (that I know of) from the makers of these apps.
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