Use smartphone to identify plants

Free botany app uses snapshot to name flowers on French photo database

27 February 2013

SMARTPHONES could soon be an essential tool for lovers of wildlife in the French countryside - to help identify plants.

The free PlantNet app works by taking a snapshot of the flower, fruit, leaf or tree bark then trying to match it with thousands of others taken by French botanists. It offers various suggestions and similar photos from the Tela Botanica database to refine the search.

At the moment the database contains 20,000 images covering 800 species found in mainland France and Pierre Bonnet, the coordinator of the participative science network pl@ntNet, told Le Figaro that the aim was to boost this to 5,000 species and 100,000 images.

He said he hopes that ramblers, amateur scientists and wildlife lovers will add expert information to the PlantNetID network – increasing both its range and effectiveness. However, sharp, easily-identifiable, close-up images were needed to be useful.

As the database grows it will give a continual indication of changes in the countryside, perhaps due to climatic change but also due to banal day-to-day events. Species are changing habitats more quickly than before and whereas scientists formerly paid more attention to a census of species they were now more interested in how it revealed the consequences of climatic change.

However, their greatest challenge is to unravel the many different names that one species of plant may have in different parts of the country.

Read more about the project on this PlantNet pdf file

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