Ever wanted to identify a plant when you’re out and about? If so, the right app could be your new best friend! We’ve searched out eight free plant identifier apps to give you access to all the information you need at your fingertips.
And many of these apps don’t just let you identify plants. They’ll also give you information on plant care and their preferred conditions. Some will even tell you where you can buy them!
Ready to find out more? Step this way …
Free Plant Identifier Apps
1. PlantNet Plant Identification
This is a great app to identify a wide range of different plants. Just take a picture on your smartphone and the app will offer an identification. And about 90 percent of the time, it will be spot on.
The database is built on photos submitted and identified by users. With more than 10 million downloads, that’s a big community that’s constantly building and updating information. And once a plant has been identified, the app can signpost you to vetted expert resources to find out more.
It’s also a brilliant resource for botanists around the world. The photographs are collected and analysed by researchers to improve understanding of biodiversity and plant evolution.
It’s very easy to use. When you log on, the app will ask you to upload your observation – in other words, a picture of the plant you want to identify. You can do so either straight from your camera, or from your photo gallery.
The app will then ask you to select the part of the plant you want to use to find a match. That could be a flower, a leaf, a fruit or even bark. The app will then offer you an identification. If you think it’s right, you then confirm it, helping to add to the app’s bank of knowledge.
There are just a couple of things to watch out for in this process. One is that the photograph you take needs to be of good quality to get an accurate identification. And it isn’t possible to upload more than one photograph to improve the chances of getting it right.
But this is still a great resource to name plants. And despite being free of charge, there aren’t too many distracting advertisements either.
2. PlantSnap Plant Identification
PlantSnap uses a huge database of over 600,000 plants to provide a match for your photo. It covers everything from trees and flowers to cacti, succulents and fungi. In fact, it claims it covers every plant on the planet.
It will provide a range of different options, complete with photos to help you get the right match. And it doesn’t stop at identification. It can also provide information on how to care for the plants, as well as offering general gardening advice and tips.
It has more than 50 million users in more than 200 countries. So as well as being a great repository for plant photos, it’s a gateway to a huge community of plant lovers. The community photo boards are a great resource, and you can also exchange gardening experiences and knowhow.
To use it, just open the app and snap a photo of the plant you’re interested in. PlantSnap will search its database to offer you potential matches. It will provide information including the common and scientific names, group, family and growth habit.
The app also geo-tags the plant you’ve identified, immediately updating its database with details of where and when plants have been found.
As ever, there are one or two issues to be aware of.
One is with the process for confirming a match. In previous incarnations of the app, you’d look at a number of potential matches at once, allowing you to compare options. But after an update, you have to confirm or decline each option before moving to the next one.
That makes the process rather more time consuming and difficult. And if you wrongly decline a match, there’s no going back.
It is also rather prone to glitches and error messages.
But most of the time, you’ll get an accurate match. And the wealth of extra information on offer makes this app a good choice.
3. Flora Incognita
Flora Incognita is another app that allows you to upload photos to identify unknown plants.
The database here is rather smaller than those of the apps we’ve looked at already. But it still features 4,800 different entries.
Each of those comes with a detailed factsheet. That includes information like the characteristics, protection status, and distribution of each specimen.
You can also save your own notes and observations. These feed into the app, so you can make your own contribution to global botany.
The app is constantly being updated. The latest release includes upgraded features such as the ability to add extra photos after your original observation. You can also use keywords to filter both your finds and the wider database.
Your finds are geo-tagged and shown on a map. And more information is always being added. The most recent update included details of all the invasive species found in central Europe.
The user interface here is rather unusual. Some love it, others find it counter-intuitive, with too much empty space for their liking. And while the option to ask for an expert review of unidentified plants is a great idea, it seems the response rate is rather low.
That aside, this is an interesting app with some creative features. And it’s both free of charge and completely free of ads.
4. Garden Answers Plant ID
Garden Answers calls itself “Shazam for plants”, and it has more than 3 million users. Just use your smartphone to take a photo, and the app aims to identify it for you immediately. It will also provide useful information on pests and diseases, plus other gardening advice.
You can store the plants you’ve looked up, together with questions and answers.
If you’re in the US and want to use the automated identification system, the app is free. But if you have a more challenging query and want to ask a human expert, you can do that too. The fee is $1.99 per enquiry.
If the adviser can’t answer, you’ll be able to submit more photos and details without paying any more. And now and again, they may refer you to another expert – a local “master gardener” or academic. If they do that, there’s no additional fee to pay.
Some users have experienced glitches with part of the system. But most find it pretty user friendly. Just be warned: outside the US, you may have to pay a small annual fee for even automatic identification.
Candide is a free app that provides plant identification alongside a range of other features.
You can take a photo then and there on your smartphone, or upload an older snap. You’ll then be asked to frame the part of the photo you want to use to identify the plant. That allows you to focus on a flower, fruit, leaf, tree bark etc.
And once you’ve identified a plant, you can add an “augmented reality” label.
This clever feature allows you to simply point your camera phone at a plant to remind you what it is. The app will superimpose a label on the on-screen image. It’s particularly handy for keeping track of plants in your home or garden.
The app is easy to navigate. And as long as you take a decent photo, you’ll get an accurate match about 80 to 90 per cent of the time.
It’s also a great way to share advice and tips with other gardeners with similar interests. And if you run into problems with identification, the active community of users will often help you out.
It acts like a guidebook to interesting gardens too, with information on opening and closing times.
It doesn’t work brilliantly with all devices, though. Some users have reported issues with slow running. And if you’ve got a Huawei phone, for some reason the app seems to close down without warning.
But for a free app, this generally works very well and has lots of valuable information.
6. LeafSnap Plant Identification
LeafSnap claims to be the most high tech, accurate and comprehensive plant identification app out there. And you can access it completely free of charge.
Just snap a photo of a plant, cactus or mushroom and the app will do the rest. It will identify about 90 per cent of all known plants and trees. And it has an accuracy rate of about 95 per cent.
It’s already identified over 27 million plants for users. And because the system uses artificial intelligence to make its matches, it learns and improves as it goes.
As you might expect from the name, the focus here is on the leaves of the plants. It’s these which the app uses to identify the specimen from its database.
You can save your finds, together with information about them. And you can organise your own personal plant library into handy categories to make it easier to review them.
One thing to be aware of is that you won’t be able to identify plants without an internet signal. That’s an issue shared with a number of other plant identification apps. You can, though, store your photos, and the app will get to work identifying them as soon as there’s a connection.
The developers are open to new ideas too. Just drop them an email if you’ve got a suggestion to improve the app.
SmartPlant is an all-in-one app that helps you to identify and care for plants, and discover new ones.
Here you get one free expert identification – i.e. performed by a real person – every month. It also works with Smart labels on new plants.
Just scan the label using the app or with your smartphone. The app will then give you information on what the plant is, what kind of habitat it prefers, and how to take care of it.
But it doesn’t stop there. You can then save the plant and activate monthly reminders for plant care. And if you run into difficulties, there’s a bank of experts to call on for advice.
If you’re prepared to pay a fee, you can access the “Premium” version of the app. With this one, there’s no limit to the number of identification requests you can send. Similarly, you can chat to SmartPlant’s experts whenever you want to. And you’ll be able to access a range of special offers.
There are some glitches to be aware of, though. Adding plants to your database can be time consuming, and some users have found the app times out during the process. Ditto for adding location information.
The database is still growing too, so some Smart labels only record the retailer. It will doubtless improve over time, but for now that function is of limited usefulness.
8. Google Lens
Google is the undisputed king of search engines. So why not use some of that awesome search power to identify plants?
It’s easy to do using Google Lens. Just point your smartphone camera at the plant in question, and use the lens icon in the Google search bar. The icon looks like a camera with a blue circle in the middle for the lens.
It works by comparing the image in your camera with images online. It then ranks them according to how similar and relevant they are.
You can get more accurate results by letting Lens know your location. That can be particularly helpful when trying to identify plants. By telling Lens where you are, it can compare that toinformation on where specific plants are known to grow.
But if you’d rather not share your location, that’s ok too.
The app is user-friendly, familiar, and you can make as many searches as you like. And while it won’t bring up additional information on plant habitat, care etc, you can find that easily enough with a Google search.
Ready to ID Some Plants?
That brings us to the end of our tour of 8 free plant identifier apps. We hope you’ve found an option to suit your needs.
Why not try one the next time you’re out and about? You’ll never again be stumped when it comes to identifying that unusual plant!
Sunday 12th of March 2023
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