PlantNet – Your New Mobile Specimen Encyclopedia

Have you ever been wandering the streets and come across some strange and bizarre plant in a front garden? So alien to your eyes it might’ve come from the Little Shop of Horrors? I sure have. I’ve been known to stop, stare, take a few pics and scour the internet for help. I’ve even knocked on a few doors now and then to actually inquire what that said plant was – by the way, that’s a great way to make gardening friends! If you recognise the above symptoms of a horticultural fanatic, you might be interested in my latest find – PlantNet.

PlantNet’s home screen offers a horticultural feed

This handy little smartphone or tablet application identifies a plant similar to the way in which Shazam can be used to find out a song. You simply snap a picture of the flower or foliage that’s spilling over a garden fence and send it off for querying. A few seconds later, PlantNet gives you a little selection of potential specimens. It’s not always right, and the top plant isn’t always accurate, but when I was clicking my way around the garden yesterday, everything got identified eventually. There are even links to Wikipedia so you can learn more about plants without even leaving the app, though you might want to head online or delve into your favourite encyclopedia once you’re home to discover a little more. There’s also a link to Tele Botanica. However, my French is less than amateurish so it’s no use to me!

When you first log into PlantNet, you’ll be shown a plant feed; these are pictures that others users have uploaded, identified and then added as a ‘contribution‘. The way add images isn’t that obvious; once you’ve taken a picture and got the results back, click on the correct specimen, choose ‘share‘ and then ‘contribute‘. This will add your picture to the database for others to see and to further diversify PlantNet’s library. You can post pictures to Twitter and Facebook too.

PlantNet has some other fun features too. For example, you can ‘Explore‘ by Families and Species, and easily waste a lot of time looking through beautiful plants. You can also create a simple profile where you can see the search requests and contribution’s you’ve made.

My quick PlantNet results page

As yet, the database is a little limited. As you can see from my PlantNet results page (right), the identification process is rather rough. For example, my marmalade geum was matched with the wild flower ‘Billy’s Button’. It got the geum right, but I’d like to see increasing levels of accuracy in terms of variety. After all, if you take a picture of a beautiful rose, you want to know which cultivar it is, not that it’s a rose. Meanwhile, my rather sad Japanese Aucuba was first matched with Rock Samphire! Still, Aucuba was second on the list, and my image was far from perfect.

Overall, this app is a great addition to any gardener or plant-lovers arsenal, helping to identify plants on the move. It’s also great if you’re new to gardening. Perhaps you’ve inherited your first garden and have no idea what the plants are. Just take pictures of everything, upload and voila…instant success.

For now I’m going to keep taking pictures of my own plants and adding them to the database to help PlantNet’s library grow. Go and download – it’s good fun!

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I'm Geoff, and I'm a plant hoarder.

Like magpies collect bright shiny things, I can't resist plants. An exquisite flower, soft ferny foliage or a beautiful majestic tree - I love them all!

Here, I'll indulge in all things flora and share my passion. Join me as I develop my garden and hoard more plants without apology.