It’s amazing how far artificial intelligence (AI) has come. Six years ago, I remember looking for an app to help me identify plants. I was disappointed to find the ones in existence were either buggy or had a very limited database. Nowadays, there are multiple options that allow you to identify plants, trees, and shrubs from pictures taken on your phone. Below are the three I’ve had the best results with.
For quick identification of plants, trees, shrubs, and herbs, PictureTHIS is a great option. It has over 450,000 global species in its database and claims to have a 98% accuracy rating. It also helps you identify poisonous vegetation and diagnose issues with sick plants.
When I was testing these apps, PictureTHIS was the best at identifying plants with no flowers or obviously distinguishing characteristics. So, if you have a plant with green leaves that look like they could belong to a few different species, this is the app I would start with.
I also loved the care reminders, note tracker, robust plant profiles with quirky info (poems, symbolism, etc.), and ability to store plant information in “My Garden”. For someone like me who loves gardening, I found it all very entertaining.
The only thing I didn’t like about this app is that it’s advertised as free but is actually closer to being a free trial. You are given 3 credits for 3 pictures. You can earn more by sharing to social media once a day. They also have a “Feel Lucky” option that lets you try to win more. If you just need to identify a random plant in your yard, this is no biggie. If you’re an avid gardener, it’s $19.99/year or $2.99/month (at the time of this post). The subscription gives you unlimited credits and access to troubleshooting support, weed identification and treatment advice, and step-by-step plant guides.
Was PictureTHIS little help? Try [email protected], a community-sourced plant, shrub, and tree database. This app is completely free, but it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as PictureTHIS. There is an AI element to it that lets you get instant results by taking a picture of the plant, but it relies on the users to submit pictures and verify species, which are officially validated when enough users vote in favor of its accuracy.
The community is filled with plant enthusiasts and experienced botanists. Users and plants are divided into regions of the world. It automatically detects your location, but you can explore plants from other areas if you want to. If you’re logged into the app, you can comment on pictures, ask questions, and vote.
When you do a plant search, you can choose to search by leaf, flower, fruit, bark, habit, or other. I found that my flowerless plants identified by PictureTHIS were not found on [email protected], but I was able to submit the photo so other users could help identify it.
While [email protected] doesn’t have much information about each individual species within the app, it does provide a wider database for identifying hard-to-find plants. It’s also free and has a computer browser option if you find it difficult to view the pictures on a handheld device.
One of the best apps to come out of the Google family, Lens lets you search for information just by taking a picture. It will scan a restaurant menu and tell you what is most popular. If you like a piece of furniture, it will show you similar products. It will let you create a reminder for a specific event with information from a flyer. And, yes, it can help you identify plants, trees, and more.
When you take a picture of a plant, it will show you potential matches. You then must decipher the closest match. When you click on the picture, it shows you all the Google search results related to that plant, including images, videos, and blog posts.
Like many of the Google products, Lens is free to use. However, there is no validation for the plants that pop up and the number of results can be overwhelming. Because there is little limit in scope, you must use your deductive reasoning to figure out if similar looking plants with different names are actually the same or different species needing different care.
If you’re great at using “The Google”, this is probably a non-issue for you. I’ve actually had a lot of luck finding plants with it but most of them were ones you can frequently find in local nurseries. Results may be different for exotic plants.
Have you tried another plant identification app with good results? Share it in the comments.