New Electronic Field Guide Identifies Leaves in a Snap

June 13, 2011 by

Leafsnap, the new electronic field guide available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, aims to build an ever-greater awareness of and appreciation for biodiversity, by engaging users as citizen scientists, allowing them to automatically share images, species identifications, and geo-coded stamps of species locations with a community of scientists who will use the stream of data to map and monitor the ebb and flow of flora nationwide. Equipped with stunning high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark, LeafSnap identifies any leaf you photograph, as long as it’s in their library, which currently includes the trees of the Northeast but will soon grow to include those of the entire continental United States.

Utilizing a software similar to the kind used for facial recognition, researchers at Columbia University and the University of Maryland, in collaboration with The Smithsonian Institution, designed and implemented LeafSnap for automatic species identification. The not-for-profit nature photography group Finding Species, collected and photographed the images for the LeafSnap apps and website.


  1. Ellen Spector Platt said:

    Great idea, and I also need a ‘People Snap’. I could surreptitiously take a snap of a person I know but just can’t recollect the name. The name could be whispered to me by the device as I pretend to take a phone call.

    — June 14, 2011 @ 08:15

  2. Joy Bennett said:

    That is such a cool App. Now I can figure out if something is friend or foe (weed or not) in the yard!

    — June 14, 2011 @ 08:42

  3. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    And thank you Joy for alerting me to this app!

    — June 14, 2011 @ 09:30

  4. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Ellen, that is so funny! I could use one of those too!

    — June 14, 2011 @ 09:30

  5. Steven Chamblee (Texas) said:

    Skeptic that I am, I’d have to test it out to believe it. Lots of variables; lots of morphological diversity—even from leaves off the same tree. But who knows, it might be the greatest thing ever. I recall being skeptical about microwave ovens, digital cameras, and cell phones, too. I’ve gotten fat eating all of this humble pie…

    — June 14, 2011 @ 09:50

  6. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Steve, please do report back on your experience if you try it!

    — June 14, 2011 @ 13:08

  7. Georgia said:

    Beautiful images and great games but the app requires you to photograph the leaf or other object on a white background. If you only use the index, a general knowledge of trees is required.

    — June 15, 2011 @ 21:04

  8. Agen Bola said:

    Great suggestions Barbara! Also, maybe it could keep your plants safe from garden thievesâ??I keep hearing about these!

    — August 17, 2012 @ 00:41

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