oak leafThe latest issue of the National Herbarium’s newsletter, The Plant Press, arrived last week. (We call it “the other Plant Press” so as not to confuse it with our publication, The Sewanee Plant Press”!) One article that caught my eye describes a free app for smart phones and tablets that identifies a tree species by snapping a photo of it. Leafsnap is a joint project of Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, of which the National Herbarium is a division. So far, the app has a library of 185 common trees found in the northeastern United States, with more to be added. In addition to the recognition software, it contains a description of each species and gives a link to the Encyclopedia of Life species page.

Snowbound last weekend, I did a quick sketch of a white oak leaf, snapped a picture, and the program recognized it right away. It even mapped the location where the photo was taken – my house! I then tried to stump it by snapping a picture of a drawing of a butterfly – couldn’t fool it into speculating.

Leafsnap is available for download at the iTunes Store.


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