Use PictureThis to identify plants on your mobile

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 2, 2021
Updated • Jan 2, 2021
Apple, Apps, Google Android

Ever wondered what the name of a particular plant that you came across was, where it originally came from, or what it favors in terms of light, soil and temperature?

PictureThis is a mobile application for Google Android and Apple iOS devices that aims to provide you with the information. It works similarly to other apps used for identification purposes such as Google Lens, but focuses solely on plants.

Note: The app gives free users a limited number of identifications only; these can be increased but are still very limited. Additionally, the close icon of the "get Premium" fullscreen prompt is barely visible. There is an x-icon in the upper right corner that you need to click on to proceed without starting a trial or subscribing outright.

All you do after installing the app is to point the camera of the mobile device at the plant, e.g. a flower, and take a picture of it. The app analyzes the picture and displays the result with the highest identification percentage on the screen.

The developers of the application note that their application is capable of identifying more than 10,000 different plants with an accuracy of 98%.

A quick unscientific test with half a dozen plants resulted in three correct identifications, one partial correct identification, and two identification that failed completely. Options to change the result are provided, but it works only if you know the name of the plant. Usually, that is not the case since you are using the app to identify the plant.

An option to report a misidentification to the developers is not available.

Identified plants are displayed with information on the results screen. You see the photo that you have taken and images of the same plant. The page may list the species, alternative names, questions and answers, a description, tips from garden coaches, facts, characteristics, pest and disease information, care guides, and more.

Each identified plant is added to the library from where it can be accessed again.

Premium version

The makers of the application make money from Premium subscriptions. Premium members have no restrictions on the number of plants that they may identify. The premium version supports identifying weeds automatically, and members may also get exclusive plant care guides and access to a team of botanists that help solve "garden problems" that may arise.

A one year subscription is available for €19.99.

Closing Words

The free version of the app is severely limited. It is fine for testing the application but it is unsuitable for anything but. The interface makes it hard for free users to avoid becoming a subscriber. The Premium offer screen has a barely visible close icon, and there does not appear to be information on the number of remaining free identifications either.

People with gardens and people interested in plants are the main target for getting a premium subscription. I could not test the botanical team or access the advanced guides because these are not available in the free version. You can sign-up for a 7-day trial to test the functionality, but need to cancel manually before the seven day period ends to avoid being charged if you are not satisfied with the results.

All in all, this is not an application that free users will be happy with over a longer period of time due to the limited number of identifications. Paying customers get all the features, and that is fine, but the limitations make it nearly impossible to test the app sufficiently before subscribing (which you also do when you start the trial).

An option to see a professional guide in all its glory, and maybe one or two answers from the botanical team could do wonders in this regard.

Now You: Do you use apps to identify things in the world?

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Android, iOS
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  1. Diane Kirkland said on May 1, 2022 at 4:41 am

    I have to politely disagree about Picturethis app. It not only identifies plants but diagnosis problems and diseases with suggestions for fixing the problem. By the way that’s for free. It’s a very good app in my opinion and very was to use.

  2. Andi said on January 6, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Just installed it to test, but they charge 30€ now. Way too much for the 2 or 3 plants I’m interested in over a year.

  3. Joe said on January 3, 2021 at 4:14 pm

    i am a botanist in the US. Even many professional biologists use iNaturalist as a way to catalog diversity, to help the public learn about nature, and to create a vast dataset for research. iNaturalist also adds community identification features, which is critical. If the AI gets it wrong and you select that ID, some local experts may come along and improve or correct it.

    The AI identification often works great — especially if it’s a distinctive species and good photos, and sometimes it really amazes me. However, it’s completely wrong about 10% to 15% of the time. I try to take several useful photos, following the recommendations on this blog post, featuring one of our state botanists:

    The iNaturalist AI uses a single photo (whichever you choose to be “1st”) for the ID, but if you want community experts to be able to confirm or improve your ID, you often need photos of all of these separate plant parts.

    These AI improvements are neat, but often no photo will suffice with many cryptic species. This means job security for me — although I expect them to eventually develop a DNA-sniffing robot.

  4. Bob Loblaw said on January 3, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    Not exactly re an app, but the most amazing flowering plant I ever saw was Angel’s Trumpet (brugmansia) in a neighbor’s front yard. Never saw before. To see all these big flowers closed up tight all day in the bright sun, and open all night in the dark, was very amazing and eerie. Btw, all poisonous.

  5. Thorky said on January 3, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    The best app for plant identification I know is “Flora Incognita” provided by the Technische Universität Ilmenau. It works really fine, but has problems to recognize very small leafs.

  6. Steve said on January 2, 2021 at 11:02 pm

    Generally, my experience with plant identification via photo is disappointing. This app my do a little better but you description makes it sound like the crippled version is not worth trialing.

    Sometimes I get results via but it can take a few photos and you don’t always get down to variety. For example, it took three photos to identify a plant as Leptospermum (I had a good idea already from the distincive five-petal flower it belonged to that species). However, I was (and still am) unable to discover the variety.
    Unfortunately my Horticulturist neighbours moved before I became interested..

  7. Jojo said on January 2, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    Perhaps Apple users need this. But why would you use anything other than the always free Google Lens if you have an Android phone?

  8. Paul(us) said on January 2, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    First I want to wish you a ferry healty new year. That this year may bring you all you wish for.
    Nice Find this plant app Martin!
    I myself use also to indentifie plants the also free app Vera (by Bloomscape) which is a plant care management app that helps you and your plants thrive!

  9. VioletMoon said on January 2, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    Maybe an alternative = PlantNet.

    I took a few photos of shrubs and plants around the trailer to send someone; then, of course, they asked what plants they were. I didn’t have a clue since I planted them according to color of bloom.

    Google Play to the rescue:

    I think I’ve had 100% accuracy.

    Nifty program for me. Loved Botany at University.

  10. Dingoe said on January 2, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    I use iNaturalist, ObsIdentify and google lens ( within Google photos). All free.

    1. Anonymous said on January 2, 2021 at 11:23 pm

      The only Obsidentify I can find appears to be made for Africa. Trialing the others. Thanks.

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