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Technology Can Now Name That Mysterious Plant You’re Staring At

People are calling it the Shazam for plants.

Image via Dave Dugdale/Flickr.

Not everyone can have a green thumb. But for the rest of us, so long as we have a smartphone, there’s hope.


Developers in France have created an app called PlantNet (hey, they’re tech people, not Tolstoy) that taps into the nearly infinite resources of Google to help identify species of plants in the wild.

Here’s how it works: You take a photo of a plant, leaf, or flower and upload it with the app (it works on both iOS and Android). An algorithm uses Google’s reverse image search to locate similar images. After compiling enough comparable data, it tells the user the name of the plant they’re staring at.

Modern Farmer calls it the “Shazam for plants,” and it has already cataloged more than 6,000 different species in Western Europe alone.

Image via PlantNet.

Answers, people. We’re just looking for answers.

Unfortunately, for those us foraging through the foliage in North America, we might have to wait a little longer. That’s because the app relies on people submitting and tagging plant species to help the program’s AI improve its algorithm search results. The good news is that even though it started as an app just for people in Western Europe, its results already have expanded to include more than 2,500 different plants in North Africa, 1,000 plants around the Indian Ocean, and more than 900 in South America.

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