Leaf ID With Your Phone: Leaf Snap

Leaf Snap: A Tree and Leaf ID App Using Your Phone

Acer saccharum - Sugar Maple fall leaves

Identifying Leaves with Technology

During the fall it's a natural time of year to think about leaves. If you are hiking in the field you may want to consider a leaf identification app called Leaf Snap http://leafsnap.com/. This app can be used with iPhone or Android and is free. It is designed to help with tree identification using leaves. I like the ease of use with the program, it is easy to navigate and get around the different offerings. When you open the app it allows you to brows different species of trees, check out your collection of photos, and options about photo size/user/etc. The main feature is the "Snap It" Icon. The only upshot to the snap-it function is that you can't just take a picture of a leaf outside on a tree, you have to put a single leaf on a white background. if you're in the field I'd suggest carrying a folded piece of paper or small notebook. When you take the picture the image is uploaded to their site, so those on limited data plans should take this as a consideration. Once the photo uploads the program then tries to identify your leaf with the closest match of the actual species.

Pros:

  • Easy to upload and use right away.
  • The general identification guide is handy.
  • Good images of petioles, bark, leaves, stems, fruits, etc. with each entry.
  • The "snap-it" tool is easy to use because it relies on your phones photo function already in place.
  • The games are challenging and easy to use.
  • Automatic mapping and GPS is nice.
  • Nice full descriptions of the specific trees from their leaves.

Cons:

  • The "Snap-it" function doesn't identify the leaves quickly, it may take a couple of tries, and sometimes your picture is "rejected" as not being on a white background even though it is.
  • Carrying around a white piece of paper is a pain.
  • The game crashes occasionally and also includes foreign and cultivate plants in the region.
  • A range map would be useful, instead it only tells you the states where the tree is found.

Overall I like the concept of this app, though it feels like it still needs some polishing. It's a good way to start getting engaged with tree and leaf identification, but will need to be supplemented with a field guide. I'm giving this one three stars out of five, just because I think it's a good tool, but not an end all and be-all in leaf ID. I found the app a good guide for beginners, and it would be useful for a classroom, though I'd not suggest trying it with 30 students at first, until you get your bearing of the difficulties that students might have with the picture taking function and then choosing from the trees presented as ID options. three stars

 
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About Infinite Spider

My name is Karen and I am currently the Education Program Coordinator at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, working with students K-gray and doing outdoor science education based on Smithsonian research. I have also been a curriculum developer for the Smithsonian Science Education Center and a contract curriculum writer for the Discovery Channel. In my spare time I love to explore nature topics that I want to know more about, which has lead me to blogging here on "The Infinite Spider" (Infinitespider.com). I've designed it to be a science and nature blog for every-day people, naturalists, and outdoor educators. Currently I live in Annapolis, MD. If you have questions you can reach me at greathornedowl76@gmail.com. Let me know if you enjoy the blog or if you would like to see a particular topic covered. Thanks for reading!