Amazing app to ID trees and plants


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I read an article in this month’s Bay Nature about an app that can help identify plants. I’ve tried these apps before, and always found them useless, so I was skeptical. But the article made this one sound promising, so I decided to give it a try. The app is called “Seek”, and it’s a joint project of the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. Here’s my report: THIS APP IS AMAZING - IT REALLY WORKS! You just give the app access to your camera, and then when you find a plant that you’re curious about, you tap the camera icon on the app and point it at the plant (hint - it’s best when you point the camera at the flowers of the plant, but I’ve seen it work from foliage and seeds also). Sometimes the app will just give you a genus, and not drill down to a specific species, but most of the time it will get you right to the species. And very helpfully, it then gives you a link to the Wikipedia page about the plant or tree.

Seek isn’t perfect, but I’d say that it works 80% of the time, which is far better than anything I’d ever seen. I’ve tried it on plants that i know, just to test it. I’ve also tried it on plants that I don’t know, gotten the results, and then looked up images on the web to confirm its accuracy. The app does make occasional mistakes, but they’re rare.

I know a fair amount about trees, but a lot less about other plants. This app is starting to change that!

The app is free - it’s called “Seek by Inaturalist” - just go to the app store on you iPhone or Android device, and download. I’ve also tried an app called “Pl@ntnet, which is also pretty good (I have actually downloaded Pl@ntnet also, as a backup to Seek, but I use Seek 90% of the time).

It’s nice to see that machine learning is finally getting to the point where these plant ID apps really work. I’m sure that they will keep getting better - something to look forward to :)