Here’s a smart idea. Ever stumbled upon a handsome plant whilst out wandering through a fancy garden and possessed neither the botanical knowledge or means by which to identify it?
You could conceivably hulk around that enormous RHS Encyclopaedia in a rucksack on the off chance, but a rather more elegant (and portable) solution comes in the form of PlantSnapp, the new plant identification app for iPhone.
It’s simple enough to use – just take a pic of a plant you wish to identify and upload it to the app. PlantSnapp will then utilise its network of trusted horticultural experts and a database of over 6,000 plant species to provide you with the name, care information and a link to a HTA certified online order supplier through which you can purchase the plant. All of this groovy info will be squirted back to you within a couple of hours. Sounds good, yes?
We took it on an excursion to Baths Botanical Gardens – situated in a far flung corner of Victoria park – to test it out.
In a bizarre turn of events, whilst innocently rummaging around in the bushes searching for some good specimens to snap, a pair of women dressed in full Jane Austin period costume appeared on the path, tutted and shot us withering* glances. Well excuse me ladies! It might well have been Jane Austen week in the city but seriously – who EXACTLY were the ones displaying peculiar behaviour** in this situation? Eh? EH?
Anyway… we collected a few snaps and sent them off for PlantSnapp to evaluate – and here are the results:
We say: It’s a Dog rose, of course. We use the berries for a multitude of booze-making opportunities.
PlantSnapp says: Rosa canina ‘Dog rose’.
A nice, easy one for starters. No problemo for PlantSnapp.
We say: The sign in the Botanical Gardens tells us its a ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’
PlantSnapp says: It’s a White Dazzler Mexican Orange blossom.
Hang on a minute… A quick google search tells us this looks nothing like a Blanc Double de Coubert! Someone sack the gardener. PlantSnapp for the win.
We say: Its a picture of gardeners mortal enemy, Japanese Knotweed***. Fear not, Victoria Park custodians…we stole this pic off of the internet.
PlantSnapp says: ‘Fallopia japonica’ AKA Japanese knotweed.
Correct. And we are happy to report that the ‘Buy’ button was disabled for this specimen.
We are idiots.
We say: It’s a picture of Robert. Robert Plant.
PlantSnapp says: It’s a ‘Generic Human’.
Generic? GENERIC? It’s Robert bloody Plant ferchristsake! We win!
Admittedly, we were being deliberately daft in some of our plant choices, but we can vouch for the fact that the app does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a great tool for the aspiring/professional gardener, which is no mean feat… just like having a tiny James Wong in your pocket that you can whip out**** at a moments notice. Nick was so impressed, he’s deleting his copy of FlappyBird to make room for it on his phone. High praise indeed.
We aimed our final request for botanical information directly at PlantSnapp CEO and founder George Williams. Here’s what he had to say…
When did your fascination with plants begin?
I spent many of my youthful summers working on a nursery in Cornwall, I have been interested from day one really.
PlantSnapp are partners with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. What plants do you recommend for attracting bees to an allotment or garden?
So many to choose from! Lavender has got to be a favourite of the bees as well as a personal favourite. It smells so good too.
What, so far, has been the most commonly snapped plant?
People seem to test out the app when they first use it on whatever is near them, this tends to be an Orchid (Phalaenopsis moth orchid). Not the most interesting one we have had but certainly a good looking plant.
How important is the GPS data for aiding correct plant identification when using PlantSnapp?
It helps us narrow down the options as to what the plant may be. We have some exciting plans for the future involving GPS too, don’t want to spoil the surprise though.
Where would be your dream PlantSnapp-ing destination?
You could really put it through its paces at somewhere like the Eden Project. I am sure our experts could manage that though.
We once watched a professional chef collect cow parsley instead of elderflowers for a recipe. (He still went ahead and cooked it for his guests). Are there any other plants that are easily mistaken?
We had some wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) sent in yesterday. The sort of weed you are used to seeing in verges and growing wild. A little known fact is that it will make your skin photosensitive if it comes into contact, this can lead to some nasty blisters if it is a sunny day.
Finally… David Bellamy vs James Wong. Who wins?
Gotta be the Wong.
If you possess an iphone or ipad, you can download PlantSnapp for free. The app comes with 3 free credits. It costs one credit per plant I.D. and you can buy additional credits through the app. (3 credits £1.49, 5 credits £2.49, 10 credits £4.99)
* Emily Bronte fans would have given us wuthering looks.
** With apologies to all Jane Austin cosplay fetishists.
*** If you spot any of this in your garden, we’ll send Andy Hamilton round – he’ll pull ’em up and drink them.
**** This is not a euphemism.