With spring having sprung for many of us around the world, now is usually the time when us fair-weather gardeners assess our outdoor space and try to remember just exactly what it was that we planted last year.
If you’re worried you may be about to uproot a prized flower rather than a weed, then help is at hand in the form of PlantNet (opens in new tab) – a super useful plant identification app that also acts as a crowd-sourced biodiversity library.
Take a snap of the shrub, tree, foliage or flower with your iPhone or iPad in question and the image recognition software will quickly present some potential identifications, along with comparable pictures from other PlantNet users.
Alongside each potential match is a percentage signifying the probability that the app has recognized the right plant. In use we were impressed by just how well it worked in practice, with the app delivering the sort of accuracy that even Monty Don (opens in new tab) would struggle to match (for context, the app’s developers Cirad-France claim it can currently identify about 20,000 of the 360,000 species on the planet).
Plant identification, without a subscription fee
Once identified, the app shows you the plant’s family, its genus, its common other names, and how at risk of extinction it may be, as well as an appropriate link to Wikipedia entries for further reading.
The developers Cirad-France describe the platform as a "citizen science project", with the app allowing you to join groups and share your plant pics and info with others, as well as letting you see and reference what other green-fingered users have found as well.
PlantNet has plenty of competition out there, with similarly effective plant recognition apps like iNaturalist offering a more seamless sharing experience, or PictureThis which offers far more depth on identified plants, including its natural history and toxicity.
PlantNet’s simplicity is, however, its strongest asset, making it easy to use for kids as well as senior gardeners, allowing users to immediately access the most important info about a plant and pointing them in the right direction to find out more should they so wish.
There’s no intrusive adverts or pop ups, and unlike PictureThis there are no subscriptions needed for extra features.
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Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist.
He started out as a music writer in the late 1990s, before moving to the Daily Mirror to become the newspaper’s technology editor, during which time he wrote a weekly column that saw him chart the boom of consumer tech and gaming as well as the resurrection and rise of Apple Inc.
He has also served as editor of GuinnessWorldRecords.com (opens in new tab) and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards.