Don’t Know Trees? Try Leafsnap

Leafsnap is an iPhone tree identification app. It works for trees when you have internet service, but you might want to carry some paper backup. Luckily, it’s free.

The Leafsnap iPhone app recognizes tree leaves from phone photos. It does a good job, but there are some limitations. You need to shoot a leaf against a white background, and it has to be a tree leaf. I tried it on some shrubs (Western Azalea and Fuchsia-Flowered Gooseberry), but they were not recognized. Yes, we have both of those in our back yard. Lovely plants.

Then I tried it on the mystery tree leaning over our fence from our neighbor’s yard. It has little cherry-like fruit and a simple, broad lanceolate leaf with a toothed edge. The app really wants you to shoot the leaf against a white background, which might take more than two hands. I had to download the high-resolution photos to definitively identify the tree. That was slow. And I took apart one of the fruits to check it against the photo of the pit for the final ID.

IMG 0721

Yes, I really believe that this tree is a Tea Crabapple. I even tasted the fruit, not all that flavorful, but a believable small crabapple. We might make some jam one of these years. And now we don’t have to worry about the dog eating them.

I’d give this a thumbs up for trees, if you have good internet connectivity. It isn’t a general purpose crutch for a plant-ignorant Scoutmaster, more something to check in the parking lot or at home after the hike. Tree coverage seems good, but it doesn’t cover shrubs.

If you want a quick ID on the trail, I’m still a fan of the Nature Study Guides, like the Pacific Coast Tree Finder and the rest of their books.

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