Mobile technology and gardening is not necessarily something that sits comfortably in the same sentence. It sounds a bit pretentious and goes against the 'getting away from it all' vibe we all enjoy during the quiet solace of the vegetable patch!
However, there are times when asking "That's so pretty! I wonder what it is?" Or "I'm guessing this is a weed....but maybe not?" Becomes so annoying, and no amount of googling or page flicking will give up the goods. The answer? A plant identification app!
Plant identification apps are generally extremely simple to use: To identify your mystery plant, you simply snap a photo of the leaves or flower, and the app will do the rest. Usually the answer will appear straight away but you might also get. Variety of close guesses to chose from. Use the list below to head straight to the iTunes App store or app website and you're ready to download and start snapping.
I thought I'd investigate as just the thought of a plant identification app made me instantly skeptical! After all, this is a pretty big claim - there are hundreds of thousands of plant species.That said, while this still fairly new technology, there are already a few different apps available on the market. Most of which are free to download although some require in-app purchases (which has to be said, is pretty annoying). So lets get started. Here's a round-up of the all the plant identification apps available to download, in no particular order:
SmartPlant (formerley PlantSnap) ►
B&Q Gardens: the ultimate outdoor assistant ►
Garden Answers ►
Garden Tags ►
Flower Checker ►
Leaf Snap UK ►
There are two main categories of app. Those who offer plant identification plus extra features (like employee actual people to identify plants either by a company or via a forum style dialog) highlighted in pink, and those who only match to a database (green). Most of the apps require a quick photo of the flower or leaf of the plant in question in order to give you the answer you're looking for in just a few seconds.
I'm not going to get bogged down with reviewing every single app in great detail, because frankly, no one has time for that! Plus, you already know they all pretty much do the same thing. First impressions count, and straight away you can see that some are pretty obviously better than others, better interfaces, quicker recognition, bigger plant databases and so on.
In fairness, I think it's pretty amazing to be able to take a photo of an unknown plant and identify it in less time than it takes to scratch an itch, let alone blow the dust off your botany encyclopedia and flick through dozens of pages to get the same answer.
Most of these apps do a pretty good job of successfully identifying a number of different plant species, including weeds. I actually really liked the B&Q app for this as it's perfect for novice gardeners or even kids to have some fun with. Some apps, such as Smart Plant even go as far as allowing you to enter a plant's details, and they will send you a notification to remind you when it needs some TLC! This is pretty handy, if like me you tend to have on going battles with a certain plant in your house or garden! Garden Answers has 20,000 plants loaded into its database which is more than enough for your average Joe to use, and would be handy for professional gardeners, landscapers and horticulture students. Plus, this app also offers information on a number of scary looking pests and diseases that may be assaulting your plant and how to treat them. If you're looking for answers to a specific problem or can't identify anything, you can also ask their panel of 'experts' who seem to be quick at responding with the answer. Other apps which offer these extended features on plant care and forums or a Q&A Panel are: Garden Tags and SmartPlant. NatureGate also offers additional wildlife identification which is a really handy feature if you enjoy the great outdoors.
My Top 4:
Garden Tags - Most comprehensive plant identification. Offers extended features and community interaction 9/10.
B&Q Gardens - Easy to use, simply identifies plants and weeds. 7/10
Garden Answers - Straight forward 'no frills' but has a large database of plants and is quick to find a match. 7/10.
SmartPlant - An interactive social hub for gardeners, To identify your plants its free but you have to pay $3.99 a month for extra features. 6/10
The apps I've chosen as my top 4 offer a variety of features in addition to plant identification. As only just beginning to scratch the surface of allotment holding and gardening I need all the help I can get and these apps seem to be full of useful information at my fingertips. I think there is still a lot of room to improve the concept of plant identification and plant care apps, but these are certainly the most comprehensive out there at the moment.
Most of these apps are only available via the App Store for your iPhone, but some are now available on Android and Google. Additionally, and it may sound obvious,but they all seem to work best on your smart phone rather than an tablet as it's simply far more convenient to use.
The only downside to these apps is that like most things in our modern world, you need to be connected to a strong 4G signal or on wifi... which isn't that handy when you're in a remote location trying to identify a plant. However, you can always take the photo anyway and use the app when you get back to civilization.
All in all, I think these apps are actually surprisingly useful and something every green fingered gardener, professional or student should have on their phone.