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Mapping the plant world one snap at a time

In December 2020, BGANZ joined forces with PlantSnap and BGCI, alongside the American Public Gardens Association, on PlantSnap’s Global Citizen Science Initiative. The initiative seeks to engage gardens and citizen scientists across the globe in mapping the world’s plant species through the largest opensource database of geolocated plant photos.

Dubbed ‘Shazam’ for plants, PlantSnap in its simplest form is a Sam Moon plant identification app. With over 650,000 plants already in a searchable open-source database, translated into 37 languages, the PlantSnap mobile app uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology to gather data from users, currently identifying over 103,000 types of plants worldwide.

Until recently, plant species, as well as subspecies, hybrids or varietals, across Australia and New Zealand were under-represented in the PlantSnap app, with most native plants in both regions unable to be identified by the app’s AI.

Since February 2021, BGANZ has actively worked on a project with member gardens across Australia and New Zealand to improve the app’s AI in identifying regional plants. In working with the Australian National Botanic Gardens, Auckland Botanic Gardens and Wellington Botanic Gardens, we have been able to significantly improve the app’s identification capabilities over what has been a short timeframe. Plant lists and image data contributed by the gardens were instrumental in training the app to recognise some of our Australian and New Zealand plant species.

We are excited to see the impact of the app’s improved capacity in identifying plants across our region as more Australian and New Zealand gardens engage at the ground level with visitors and/or contribute plant data to training the PlantSnap mobile app over time.

On the ground, gardens have the potential to engage staff and visitors to grow the app’s identification capabilities by actively and directly engaging their visitors to become citizen scientists.