Plant Identification Apps Explained


Have you ever loved the look of a plant, but can’t seem to name it for a later purchase? With plant identification apps on the rise, those days are now over. 

While other surprising health benefits associated with gardening include cardiovascular health, improving self esteem, reducing stress and anxiety, providing a bonding family activity, boosting Vitamin D levels and access to healthy food, it should come as no surprise that the number of people who identify as hobby gardeners are on the rise. 

There’s a certain kind of magic associated with quite literally reaping what you sow, and knowing that your direct actions help plants come to life. While getting inspiration for gardening usually comes from adventures on the go, sometimes it can be hard to identify and research the types of plants that tickle your fancy.

Although smartphone users have a wide range of plant identification apps to choose from, such as third party options or even built in functions like Apple’s new Visual Look Up, do these new age digital tools really work?

An Introduction To Plant Identification Apps

Regardless of whether you’re out shopping for a new addition or simply want to learn more about a variety already present in your garden, correctly identifying a plant is crucial. Without this basic knowledge, gardeners run the risk of over or under watering, giving too much or too little sun, or not paying attention to the preferred types of soil for each particular plant.

As such, it should come as no surprise that plant identification apps are on the rise. While newer Apple and Samsung smartphones now have built in features to identify plants, dogs and even landmarks found in a photo, third party applications have already been around for quite some time. In fact, just a handful of the most popular include the following – 


Source: The Landscape Association

Even despite the leaps in technology, many veteran gardeners are sceptical on whether plant identification apps actually work. While we don’t have access to much data yet in Australia, the more reputable apps have received the thumbs up from industry experts in the United States. 

In fact, a research paper published in a recent edition of the scientific journal, Arboriculture and Urban Forestry, explored the accuracy of photo based plant identification apps. Researchers with the Rutgers Urban Forestry Program designed and implemented this study, and assessed the apps’ abilities to identify photos of fifty-five common street trees and native forest trees found in New Jersey. 

For their study, a number of experienced arborists photographed the bark and leaves of trees, and submitted their photos to the six most commonly downloaded plant identification apps based on charts and data sourced from the Apple App Store. 

After submitting at least four images to each of the selected plant identification apps, the Rutgers study found that while species-level identification by leaf pictures was not always the most accurate (83.9% to 40.9% accurate), across all the apps observed, genus-level identification by leaves was pretty good, reporting accuracies from 97.3% to 71.8%. 

Across all apps and all species, identification by bark pictures alone was not nearly as accurate as identification by leaves. Given the study’s conclusion, it’s evident that while these apps cannot replace traditional field identification for plants, they can be used with high confidence as a tool to assist inexperienced gardening enthusiasts who could benefit from being pointed in the right direction. 

However, it’s also worth noting that advancing technology linked to artificial intelligence means that plant identification apps are only set to get better in the years to come. With multi billion dollar companies like Apple investing heavily into such developments, plant identification apps may yet be rendered obsolete if the smartphone manufacturers are able to continuously improve their built in features such as Visual Look Up. 

Gardening The Way Nature Intended 

Australians care about what they put into their bodies, and what types of products they bring into their homes. Even if you don’t share your abode with pets or kids, opting for eco-friendly gardening products is a way to minimise our impact on the world around us. 

With a team of highly experienced plant and gardening enthusiasts, the team at Sunshine Coast based Bioweed are armed with a wealth of knowledge, tips and tricks that can help you to get your lawn and garden looking their very best. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you’re looking for further organic gardening solutions.