“Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides being developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This free mobile app uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs of their leaves.”
This app has the potential to become an invaluable tool for any nature enthusiast. Right now, its database is starting to be developed beginning with the Northeast United States and there are 184 species of trees. By far the best feature this early in the apps life is the browse function. You can browse the collection they have by common first or last name, as well as the scientific name. There are incredibly high resolution photos of the leaves, flowers, fruit and bark. They have also included additional description information such as the tree’s habitat, growth habit, bloom time, longevity and where it might be located in the US.
There is a Snap It! feature where you take a picture of a plant yourself (must be with a white background) and the app will try to match it with a list of top possible species. If the species is on the list, you can select it and add it to your collection. Otherwise, and unfortunately the most common result for anyone not in the Northeast is that it will be classified as an unlabeled species. But the app is young and still being developed.
I recommend getting this app even if it doesn’t always recognize the tree you’re taking a picture of. Play around with it, update it when they become available and hopefully the developers will quickly populate the database to cover all of the US. This is one of those useful and educational apps you always wish they would make.. so download it, and let the developers see how much it is appreciated that they are doing this.
Check out Leafsnap for more information on the app, or download it for free from the App Store. Android and other smart phones versions are under development, but it’s all volunteer based so it will take some time as their #1 priority is expanding the coverage beyond the Northeastern US.