If you enjoy time spent outdoors, chances are you’ve come across a plant or two that has caused you to say, “That’s interesting! I wonder what that is?”. Identifying the plants you’re looking at can be a challenge, unless you happen to be a botanist. Even a handy book or reference guide can leave some room for confusion. You can always bring a picture or sample of a plant to your local extension office for help, but we also have some new tools available to help with identification. With the development of artificially intelligent software, we have apps on our cell phones that can do amazing things, including identifying living organisms.
There are a lot of options available, however, and cutting through the clutter is hard. To help decide which apps are the most trustworthy and effective, read on! Here are some plant identification apps that stand out currently:
Free. Runs on Android devices (6.0 or later) or iOS devices (12.0 or later). This app requires an account, and combines artificial intelligence (AI) identification with a community of “citizen scientists” online who can help to confirm results.
Free. Runs on Android devices (6.0 or later) or iOS devices (11.0 or later). A more stand-alone version of the above app, this relies on AI to identify plants (and some animals and fungi).
Free to download, with a $2.99 monthly charge, $19.99 yearly charge, or $39.99 lifetime subscription for their premium version. Runs on Android devices (5.0 or later) and iOS devices (12.0 or later). PlantSnap relies on AI to identify plants using a database of over 600,000 plants and fungi.
Free. Runs on Android devices (5.0 or later) or iOS devices (11.0 or later). AI identification based on geographic area or plant theme (such as invasives, useful plants, etc.).
Free to download, 7 day free trial with $29.99 premium access. Works on Android devices (5.0 or later) and iOS devices (13.0 or later). AI provides immediate identification of over 10,000 plant species.
Free to download, with a $7.99 monthly fee or $35.99 yearly subscription. Works on Android devices (8.1 or later) or iOS devices (14.5 or later). Specifically tailored to houseplants, Planta includes plant identification as well as a light meter, care guides, and automatic reminders for houseplant care.
Free. Works with Android devices (6.0 or later) and iOS devices (14.0 or later). Among many other functionalities such as searching for consumer products, Google Lens is able to use its AI to identify plants.
Free. Usable only on iOS devices (15.0 or later). Included with the iOS 15.0 system, simply tap the info button on a photograph of a plant and then the leaf icon that appears. The iOS system will use its AI to attempt to identify the plant in question.
There are plenty more options out there and, as AI develops, more are undoubtedly on the way! Remember that not every identification, regardless of the software’s quality, might be accurate. Rare plants or those with many similar look-alikes could be mistaken. Use caution with these tools, especially for plants that might be harmful or toxic. While these can be a good starting point, it’s always a good idea to consult a knowledgeable human being (such as an Extension Agent or Master Gardener Volunteer) to be sure about any plant’s identity. Happy IDing!