To ID or not to ID...
By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Feb 15 2016 11:37AM
We got quite excited this week when we heard about a wild plant identification app that has been re-released for Android phones.
The idea is that when you're out and about you can take a simple snap and, by using a combination of a comprehensive image sharing library and user input, it will help you identify more than 6,000 wild plants.
Well, as keen foragers and naturalists anything that helps us work out what we're looking at, especially in a convenient smart phone format, is a welcome addition to the rucksack. And with four French research organisations feeding into the Pl@ntNet project, there are some sharp brains working on it.
So, is it any good? Maybe.
We gave it five images to identify and it got three right. It nailed a crocus, crabapple and blackberry but failed with both the holly and the ivy (isn't there's a song about that?). With a hit rate of 60% it was a little disappointing and didn't exactly set our wild world alight.
But it's worth saying that the project is in the early stages in the UK and so no doubt will improve with time. As with so many crowd-sourced products, it will work better when it had developed a critical mass of engaged users. It's a French-designed app and whilst many of our native plants grow on the continent, not all of them do, so this might account for some of the confusion.
What it definitely goes to show, however, is that knowledge of plant life is not something that can be shortcut or learned overnight. Good foragers acquire their skills and knowledge over a number of years with patience and dedication. If you do want to try the App you'll find it (for free) in the Google App store. PL@ntNet is an interesting technological development and one that might improve with time but not one we'd recommend relying on just yet.