It often happens on my adventures that I see a plant I would like to know more about, but I don’t know what to call it. It is times like these that I take a photograph and text it to my mother. She knows a lot, but sometimes she doesn’t know the name either. This is why I recently bought the Plant Snap app for the iphone. Once open, I can select a photograph from my gallery, center and crop it, and ask for identification. The AI on the servers will do its best to match my photo with another photo it has in its database. It is often right. The photos it pulled up to match the white flower was a spitting image of the one I took. Apparently, it is called a pricklyburr.
Even though the app authors recommend identifying flowers by taking a photograph of a single flower straight on so as not to confuse the AI, it still does a pretty good job when this is impossible. The yellow flowers it identified as common tansy. The photograph it matched mine to was virtually identical.
While plant snap works amazing wonders even under less-than-ideal conditions, sometimes it just does dumb things. I don’t know if it is because of a bug in the software or because not all plants are in the database yet or because it simply needs more feedback to refine its algorithms (I believe there is a way to give feedback for registered users, but I have not registered yet), or whether some humans have simply been giving incorrect or inconsistent feedback, but some matches are just clearly wrong. The purple flower it recognized not as an orchid, but as a hibiscus. Except for color, the picture was not even close.
Note: In going back to the app to double-check the names in preparation to write this review, some things had changed. The white flower was identified as a leafy skyrocket, which is about as different as it can get and still be a plant, though other possibilities were listed below, including the pricklyburr. For the purple flower, among the below-listed possibilities were two types of orchids, which were very similar, though not identical, so there is still hope.
The bottom line is that Plant Snap cannot be relied on for life-and-death decisions, but it is more accurate than my mother and easier to use than online identification guides or Google image searches. I expect to use it a lot this coming spring. The twenty-first century is getting off to an amazing start.
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My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.