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Pl@ntNet develops the world’s first plant identification app

Pl@ntNet is a broad-scale scientific initiative with several goals, including the development of a universally accessible mobile application for identifying plants. This app aims to help the general public learn more about plant species and, bit by bit, gain a broader perspective on plant distributions.

Pl@ntNet, the world’s first plant identification app, available for download from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. © Mathias Chouet
By Pascale Mollier, translated by Jessica Pearce
Updated on 12/02/2016
Published on 06/20/2014

“Plant biologists are bearing witness to the world’s sixth major extinction event,” comments Daniel Barthélémy, a botanist and co-director of the Pl@ntNet project, a joint effort spearheaded by INRA and CIRAD (1). He continues, “Because we are dealing with ever more complex challenges, it is crucial to get citizen scientists and academic associations to collect broad-scale data on plants.” This sentiment is what motivated him and Nozha Boujemaa to initiate Pl@ntNet.

 Botany moves into the era of mobile apps and citizen science

Pl@ntNet is more than just a scientific initiative; it is a network of human interactions. It has created a mobile application that allows motivated members of the general public to capture images and make notes about plants they observe, with the aim of more broadly sharing that information. Using their smartphones, amateur botanists can take pictures of unfamiliar plants and then use the Pl@ntNet application to identify them to species. Users can submit up to five photographs showing different parts of the same plant (e.g., flowers, fruit, leaves, and stems). The app then compares the user-furnished photos with the over 90,000 images present in the Pl@ntNet image directory and returns the names of the mostly likely candidates based on visual similarities. The app is available for download from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.

Making a research partner of the world

Pl@ntNet is a broad-scale research initiative that has created numerous national and international partnerships to tackle such challenges as weed control in rice plantations and species invasions in France’s overseas departments and territories. It has also promoted the study of tree species on Reunion Island and in French Guiana.

The goal is to equip the greatest number of people possible (e.g., hikers, everyday citizens, students, and environmental-resource managers) with the tools they need to identify and share observations on any plants they may encounter. At present, the Pl@ntNet database contains information on more than 4,000 members of mainland France’s natural plant communities.

Pl@ntNet is thus encouraging people to collect and share information that will be extremely helpful in dealing with future global challenges, such as threats to food security and the loss of biodiversity. In the near future, the application will be expanded to include a greater variety of plants.

(1) The other director is Nozha Boujemaa, who works at INRIA.

Scientific contact(s):

Associated Division(s):
Forest, Grassland and Freshwater Ecology
Associated Centre(s):

To learn more

The initiative was launched in 2009 as the result of a research consortium involving CIRAD, INRA, INRIA, IRD, and the Tela Botanica network and in the context of the Pl@ntNet project, funded by the Agropolis Fondation.

Pl@ntNet receives an award

Pl@ntNet received a silver medal for its collaborative research efforts at the fifth annual World Digital Festival (“Futur en Seine”), which took place June 12–22, 2014, in and around Paris.

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