Have you ever wished you could just take a picture of a plant and have the internet identify it for you? Turns out, there are a lot of digital options to help with the identification of plants. We’ve reviewed the best resources so you don’t have to.

PLANT APPS:

iNaturalist: Once logged on to this free application, you become one of their citizen scientists. The app uses your photos then provides you with a list of possible plant choices. Once the plant has been identified the app then asks you to upload the data to help other people learn what’s in their neighborhood (there is the option to skip this and just get the plant identified). This app was by far the best at identifying the correct plant. An added bonus is it allows users to create guides and gives access to others created in the area. In fact, there is a fantastic Plants of the Middle Rio Grande Bosque guide already on the app listing hundreds of plants in the Albuquerque area.

Pl@ntNet: This free app uses a database organized by location to identify plants. Simply upload a photo and the app provides a long list of possible matches. It’s common to find the correct plant among the choices given, but if a match is not made, users may access the world flora database to find the exact plant. This app is good at identifying the plant family which is a good start in finding the right identification. The best attributes of this app are that it does not require a login or account and you can either take live photos or select from your photo library.

New Mexico Wildflowers. This free, local app is a winner – it’s basically an online field guide boasting more than 3,000 local plants! Select a plant type, flower color, flower size, leaf arrangement and habitat. It then provides a list of plants that meet the criteria. From there, users can identify the plant in question. A great feature of this app is that it can be used during your favorite outdoor activity because internet access is not required.

New Mexico Wildflowers app
iNaturalist app

LOCAL DATABASE AND GROUPS:

New Mexico Plant List Database: This plant database is courtesy of the Office of the State Engineer. It has a large variety of plants with an easy-to-use interface. http://wuc.ose.state.nm.us/Plants/

Groups: Another way to figure out plant identification is to crowdsource using social media. There are a few notable Facebook groups that regularly answer plant ID questions, where members upload photos of the plant with location details, and members of the group provide input. A few to check out are Native Plants of New Mexico (4,027 members), Entomology (135,034 members), Plant Identification (174,670 members), and Plant Identification and Discussion (278,523 members).

Other apps: PlantSnap, Picture This Plants, Seek. We’ve found these to be less reliable for identifying desert friendly plants.

Local Resources: contact the Bernalillo County Extension Agents or Extension Master Gardeners.  

TIP: When using any of these tools, the quality of the photo is important. It’s helpful to have both zoomed-in pictures of foliage and photos of the entire plant form.

Author: Marisa Y. Thompson, Ph.D. Extension Horticulture Specialist, Department of Extension Plant Sciences NMSU Desert Blooms blog and Jill Brown, ASLA Landscape Architect and owner of My Landscape Coach in Albuquerque, NM.
Resources: Native Plants of New Mexico Facebook Group