In the Latest Version of iOS

It was news to me to discover recently that the latest version of my iPhone’s operating system included an automatic plant ID function – who knew? I’ve been meaning to give in and subscribe to a plant ID app for the longest time, and now I don’t have to.

Here’s how it works. Just take a photo of a plant, or scroll to one already on your phone, then look at the bottom of the screen to find the “i” icon with a blue circle around it. Click that and you’ll next see a screen like the ones above. The screen shot on the left shows the option to “Look up plant,” while the screens on the right have already analyzed the plant and provided the best guess.


It’s been correct for almost all the plants I’ve used it for – though without cultivar names. The eight above – zinnia, crossvine foliage, morning glory, lantana, aucuba, autumn fern, coleus and common boxwood – were all identified correctly.

One plant that it got wrong is this ‘Emerald Green’ Arborvitae, which the app ID’d as a juniper.

PlantNet – FREE for All

A free ID app that works on any device is PlantNet, and it’s CNN‘s top pick, saying it’s a “collaborative citizen science project dedicated to worldwide plant biodiversity monitoring…PlantNet claims its database contains over 45 floras and 46,050 plant species.”

A PlantNet feature I haven’t explored yet is its groups.

Users can immediately join different Groups, which are collections of users who share common interests or geographical location. We joined some groups that interested us. PlantNet’s five most popular groups each contain over 1,000 members. The app’s most popular groups are: Flowers of France; Plants of Europe; Medicinal plants, Herbs and Foraging for Wild Edibles; Cactus and Succulents; and Houseplants.

PlantNet also offers helpful advice on how to take a good plant picture for the app, which are probably best practice for any ID app.

  • Step 1: Use your smartphone’s camera to zoom in on one flower (or leaf, fruit, stem),
  • Step 2: Click on the in-frame item to focus on it, and
  • Step 3: Take the picture, making sure it contains just one organ (item) and is centered, sharp, without fingers, and has a natural or neutral, blurred background.

And if you’ve ever wanted to ID a plant out in the wild somewhere, with no cell service, PlantNet even works without an internet connection!

The New York Times also recommends PlantNet, saying:

Within five seconds, this app was able to differentiate a downy-yellow violet from an eastern redbud, a weeping forsythia from a tall goldenrod, and a maple from an oak. Unlike many of the apps we tried, PlantNet is not consumed with ads or sneaky pop-ups that trick you into paying for extra features. Although it doesn’t offer as seamless a sharing experience as iNaturalist or as much plant background information as some of the other apps we tested, PlantNet provides quick, easy identifications that our testers found to be consistently accurate.

For me, PlantNet identified correctly the same plants the iOS app did, and also mistakenly identified the arborvitae as a juniper.

iNaturalist – the other Top Pick by the Times, and FREE

“For teachers, community educators, and citizen scientists who want to be able to identify plants they find as well as learn and share information about them, iNaturalist (iOS, Android) is the app we recommend.”