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Helpline Hot Topic

Helpline Hot Topic for July 2021

Plant Identification Phone Apps

by Cynthia Zimmerman

“The value of identity of course is so often with it comes purpose.”             - Richard Grant

Back in February 2019 I wrote about how I discovered Google Lens for plant identification. Since then I have learned about a number of other phone apps that can also be used. Although I haven’t tried all of them, I have looked at them on-line trying to determine which might work from not only a home gardener’s viewpoint but also as a tool for a Master Gardener in helping ID plants. If you are interested in having the ability to ID plants at your fingertips, I suggest you try one of the following. I am not ranking them but listing them in alphabetical order. Each has strengths and weaknesses. All are available for iOS and Android operating systems to use on your phone. All are free with some offering expanded premium services for a fee.

Google Lens

This is the app that I use because it came on my phone. Just click on the icon and take a picture. It presents you with an answer plus two other options. Click on the option you want and you get the scientific name, family, all the common names, information about propagation, height, and size. It also gives you a link to Wikipedia if you want more information. I have also used this for identifying insects and had good results. Another nice feature is that it can identify almost anything you see; animals, locations, buildings, landmarks in addition to trees, flowers, plants, weeds and insects. The web alternative to this is Google Image Search.




The primary goal of this app is to connect people to nature. It has a huge database of animals and plants with good photo recognition capabilities and allows user feedback for each result. The biggest drawback that I see is that it isn’t just point and click; you must create a new observation for each new plant identification request. “By recording and sharing your observations, you'll create research-quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature” per the website. California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society have collaborated on this to provide scientists and naturalists a place to share their observations with the intent of working together to better understand and preserve nature.




This is reportedly a very user friendly app that makes it simple to find every plant in the data base. It claims to be able to identify 90% of all known species of plants. The free version requires you to watch ads, but there is a fee-based premium version without the ads. It can identify plants from photos of various parts of the plant; leaf, bark, flower, fruit.




Point the camera and click app to get plant identification.  It claims to have a plant disease identifier, can give you plant care tips, and set care reminders for watering, misting, feeding, rotating, etc. It also includes a plant blog with useful articles about plants and gardening.




From Google Play, this is one of the most popular. It supposedly can identify 10,000+ species of plants with 98% accuracy but one reviewer said it wasn’t reliable. The free subscription contains ads and only a limited number of free ID requests. You can earn more free IDs by watching ads, sharing with a friend, etc. The premium subscription allows you to ID an unlimited number of plants, plus receive additional care tips, reminders, and HD plant wallpapers without the ads.



PlantNet – Pl@ntNet

This app can identify a plant from a photo of its leaves, flowers, fruit, bark, and habit. It is free and ad-free, easy to use and has a web version. One drawback is that is has a relatively small database (it claims to be able to identify 20,000 species). It was originally developed by scientists in France for android platform.




This app claims to be able to identify over 625,000 plants, trees & mushrooms. In partnership with trees.org, PlantSnap plants new trees when the app users share their photos. It has both a free version with ads allowing you to take 25 photos while the premium version is unlimited. From what I read you have to give your email address and credit card number even to use the free app. They claim to add 2000 new plant species per month. 



No matter which ones you choose to try you need to remember that none of the databases have all the plants in them. Also taking a good picture is extremely important. Poor lighting, poor angle, busy backgrounds, bad plant parts, photographing too small a portion of the plant; all these factors can create problems for software to recognize a plant.