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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Tech Tuesday: Leaf Snap

Today I will be talking about a botanical app that is available on Apple platforms. This app is Leaf Snap. I had the opportunity to thoroughly test this app, and it offers a way to identify plants by simply taking a picture of the leaf (thus Leaf Snap). This provides someone with just a little experience to successfully identify trees and some shrubs. Overall, this is a very powerful app that puts a very nice database of plants in your hands at the touch of a screen.

The app itself is very simple to use and is not intimidating to even the most technology-averse individuals. To use the app, you simply open the app and take a picture of the leaf. The picture of the leaf must be on a plain white background. The app compares the leaf picture to the database that has been developed for the app. A list of possible candidates is generated and the user can then select the correct plant from the list. The correct plant can be identified and recorded to improve the accuracy of the app and increase the database.

So what do I like about this app?First, the app is simple and easy to use. It is intuitive and is not complicated by too many options and "features". Second,it is not a glitch app either.I have not had the app close down or force quit while I was using it.

What do I not like about the app? Now don't be put off by the fact that this is a slightly longer list than what I like. First, and this is what I feel is the biggest drawback of the app, it was designed and developed by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. This means that the app falls a little short here in the Midwest. It does not pick up on some of the more common species that are found here and are a little rarer on the East Coast. Second,the app identifies the leaves based on the outline of the leaf and does not look at the veins of the leaf for identification. This is a short coming that is minor overall, but is something that should be considered when looking at this app. Third,the user needs to have some knowledge ofthe plants that they are looking at as the app gives a list of choicesand the usermust select the correct plant. Finally,the picture must be taken on a plain white background for the app to work. This is again one of the big problems with the app, as there can be nothing on thebackground or the app does not recognize that there is even a leaf on the page.

Overall, this is a nice app and can be a nice tool to aid in tree identification.

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