I want to show you two fun apps that I have been trying out over the last few days. The name of the first app is PictureThis®.
What is PictureThis®?
PictureThis® is a plant identification app for iPhone and iPad. The basic version is free, but you can pay to upgrade the app and get more information about the plants.
The app can be used to identify all kinds of plants and learn something about them.
This is an example of a plant from my garden. As you can see, apart from the fact that the application recognises what plant it is, it also provides us with information that at first sight seems very useful, such as where it should be, and even when you have to water it.
However, I live in Lagartera, where we have a LOT of sun in summer. Being ‘in full sun’ in Asturias, where there are more rainy days, is not the same as being ‘in full sun’ here. Few garden plants survive the summer in full sun all day long in Lagartera. And then, advice on how often to water has to take into account the season, or the type of soil the plant is growing in. The needs of plants in July are greater than in November. So, use common sense with these tips, and take into account the conditions where you live, and how much it has rained.
In short, if you are looking for an app to identify plants and learn a bit more about them, I recommend the app, because it’s free and fun, but you shouldn’t take it too seriously either. If you really want to know how to take care of a plant, you can use PictureThis®. to identify it, and then look for more information elsewhere, for example here:
Another useful application is Pl@ntNet.
What is Pl@ntNet?
It’s another tool that allows you to identify plants, especially wild plants, using photos. There are themes, e.g. Useful Plants, or you can search for geographical regions, e.g. Western Europe, or you can simply select World Flora, which will give you a result, but perhaps not on that is as precise as searching by theme or region.
Pl@ntNet works a bit like Wikipedia, i.e. users also contribute to the project, adding to the database, helping to extend botanical-scientific knowledge. This collaboration between the public and scientists is called ‘citizen science’. Professional scientists use this data to get information on the distribution of plant species.
To use Pl@ntNet with a computer, you can simply go to
and upload photos. There is also a mobile application that you can download on a smartphone to create an account.
I uploaded a photo of a weird plant I had found in the countryside in April, and it told me there was a 72.4% chance it was Orobanche rapum-genistae Thuill. or Broomrape (Wolf Asparagus in Spanish). The other possibilities were also types of Orobanche.
It’s worth taking more than one photo and trying several, because some photos show the leaves better, others show the flowers better, and all the details help to identify the plant.
I went to Wikipedia to find out more, and discovered that it really is a very weird plant:
For starters, it’s a parasite that lacks chlorophyll. When I studied plants in biology, part of the definition we were taught in the textbook was that all plants have chlorophyll. Through Pl@ntNet you can discover that there are weirder things going on in the world of biology than you are taught in high school textbooks! Then my teacher explained to me that biology is more complex than we think it is when we start studying it.
Here’s the Orobnache in May. I found the plant next to a broom bush, which you can see in the background. Broom belongs to the family of plants called genistae in Latin. This orobanche grows on the roots of the broom, and the curious relationship it has with the broom must have given it its Latin name rapum-genistae. (The English name, ‘Broomrape’, obviously comes from the Latin, and roughly means ‘from the roots of the broom’, not what you might think it means! Translator’s note)
In short, both apps are fun and free, but Pl@ntNet is more versatile because you can use it with more devices. Then, if you want to investigate further, it’s worth googling the name of the plant, to see what you can find out.
Manuel García Jarillo, Lagartera, Toledo, May 2022