It's an awesome idea: an app that will identify a plant just by a photo. Perfect for snapping pix when touring gardens or wondering whether you should let that volunteer flower have a permanent home in your garden. So when the LikeThat Garden app recently added a version for Android devices, I was more than ready to try it out.
The app advises taking photos of a bloom as closely and clearly as possible. Then, when you hit search, it offers up a list of choices, giving you the chance to "confirm" your choice if it gives an accurate match.
The best way to test an atlas is to check it out around your neighborhood, so I figured I'd start out with plants in my garden that I knew intimately (i.e. genus, species and variety). I also dropped those same photos into Google's image search to see how the two compared.
When offered a photo of a Jackmanii clematis, the app offered choices of two-tone petunias, bellflower clematis, two varieties of trillium and oxalis. Google images, on the other hand, showed mostly clematis photos, but never a Jackmanii, a classic variety that's been a staple in gardens since its introduction in the 1860s.
Given a photo of a rose, the app offered me Rose of Sharon, Carolina roses, hibiscus, camellias, mountain peonies and Cape jasmine. But it got balloon flower campanulas and purple coneflowers right straight off. Maybe a simpler shape helped? Google images handled those as well, so maybe being a more common flower type also helped.
The app offered me only two choices for centaurea, both of which were indeed centaurea plants and one of which was accurate. Google images handled that one accurately as well.
I dutifully confirmed the results of the accurate offerings made by the app, which should help improve its accuracy, with luck and accurate clicking by reasonably knowledgeable gardeners. But there's nothing to stop the well-intentioned but not-so-well-informed from confirming inaccurate results, which might explain the results I was seeing.
So what's the verdict? It's a work in progress, but it's better than just using Google alone. And at the price (it's free from the Google Play or iTunes stores), you can't complain too much. □