By Jill J Easton
The fig and butterfly bushes in our front yard are a series of sad brown sticks, killed by the late season cold snap. Next spring there will be no more dead plants that can’t withstand the weather in the Ozarks. Soon our yard will go native; the wild plants I choose will be immune to freeze and disease problems. In the quest to find wild flowers, bushes and trees that adapt, I have a powerful ally: PictureThis.
There are dozens of wild plants that flower beautifully or have great fruit. Rusty black haw, pawpaw and red buckeye will take over for the finicky plants that cost hundreds of dollars at the nursery. Dwarf iris, lanceleaf coreopsis and purple beard tongue will fill in among the ghost flowers that were planted in our yard more than 100 years ago. The plants I’m choosing also benefit wildlife; they aren’t just pretty blooms in the yard. The best part is they are free. Each of those plants is growing somewhere on our property.
During turkey season, the app opened up a whole new world to my hairy-legged chest beating hunter friends. Whenever a plant looked intriguing, I’d snap a picture. At lunch, first one guy, and then several closed in to see what I’d found. They were wowed, soon they were planning to add new plants to their home gardens. It was fun to watch redneck turkey shooters carefully dodging plants that would have been stomped last year. They spent time looking down and around finding new plants and flowers for me to identify.
What makes this magic?
“PictureThis can identify over a million plants, and we are adding to the number regularly,” said Phoebe Rogers, my contact with the company. “The app is more than 98% accurate, better than a human botanist. It can identify flowers, leaves, trees and herbs and can even find a plant from a book or painting. It also has a gallery that stores any plant that is photographed along with our botany team’s information. That team is available to answer questions 24/7.”
PictureThis could not be simpler to use. Tap on the flower, find the camera icon, which moves around, then snap a picture. In less than a minute it tells whether the plant is native, how tall it gets, the amount of sunshine it needs and shows dozens of photos of the plant and flower in various stages.
“We started to develop the PictureThis series in 2017,” Phoebe continued. “It has been in operation and available to the public for three years. The site uses advanced artificial intelligence to make the IDs with 98% accuracy.”
The site isn’t just a guide to plants you see and think you might like, it also sets up a garden folder where you can store species profiles that might make it into your fantasy garden.
“There are even plant care guides that include tips and watering reminders,” Phoebe said. “They help you better grow the lovely plants, trees and flowers you identify in your own personal collection.”
Sick plants are no problem for PictureThis
“The app has Auto Diagnosis,” Phoebe explained. “Just take a picture of a sick plant, the software will identify the diseases and pests that are causing problems and tell the gardener what to do. If the problem isn’t solved, our experts can offer additional personalized information and help.”
Picture this is compatible with IOS 10.0 or later and will work with Android, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and has a positive rating of 4.8 out of 5. It comes in English, Arabic, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Bokmal, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Traditional Turkish and more. When you get PictureThis, you become part of a global community of plant lovers. It is even possible to post pictures of favorite plants on the site.
There is a free version, but within days I bought the paid model at $29.95 and I’m glad I did. It’s faster, has better identification techniques, is good for up to six family members and is supposed to be usable for anyone over the age of four. We don’t have any four-year-olds to test it on, but our six-year-old grandson, Hank, didn’t have any problem using the app.
PictureThis also has separate mushroom, insect, bird and fish identifiers. I have some doubts about using the bird identifier on living birds since they move so quickly, but I will eventually get several more.
Wow your friends and learn everything you ever wanted to know about wild flowers and other plants. Soon, you will be collecting your own just right plants and your yard won’t look like mine, full of leafless dead sticks.