Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's a leaf for that

Bigtooth aspen from
Just one more reason for me to be jealous of people with iphones and ipads: a leaf-id app. Yeah, that's right, you take a picture of a leaf and the app identifies it for you. Or at least gets within a few choices, and then supplies you with telling details so you can make the final determination.

It's called LeafSnap, it's free, and it was downloaded over 150,000 times in its first month. The creators are currently working on including all the trees in northeast US, then adding western US trees--and then they're seeking something like tree-id world domination by expanding around the globe.

LeafSnap searches images collected by the Smithsonian Institution, and returns info on the tree's bark, flowers, seeds, and fruit. And get this: it uses facial recognition technology to recognize the leaves. And when a user snaps those pics, the resulting tree identifications are sent automatically to a database that uses mapping information from the phone to determine the tree's location. This info can later be used to monitor tree populations.

To continue the amazingness, similar apps might be developed to identify fish and butterflies or other insects.

For more info, check out what Ecotrope and The Seattle Times have to say. And what do you say--would you use Leafsnap?


  1. That would have come in really handy when I was taking those Plant ID finals. I wonder if the horticulture teachers at CCC are aware of this potential cheating method.

  2. Wow. Now that's an app I could get to love. I used to teach plant identification, and now cover myself in shame when I can't tell a simple Montia from a Lewisii. 

  3. Way way cool---now if only they can figure out a way to ID bird songs---

  4. Ooh, that'd be nice. Someone must be working on that somewhere... A friend just told me about BirdsEye, which has GIS mapping for crowd sourcing bird sightings. She loves it.  

  5. What a great link.  I read about this new app in the newspaper and thought it was a cool idea.  Gotta get it.  Now I'll collect leaves as well as pages.  :-)