Exploring God’s Creation with the Leafsnap iOS App


Ever been out on a walk (or even in your garden), seen a tree and wondered what species it is?

Well now, as the saying goes, “there’s an app for that”!

Leafsnap is a very clever app developed by researchers by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution. The app contains top quality high-res photos of the leaves, flowers, fruit, petiole (the stalk of a leag), seeds, and bark of the trees of the northeast USA.

It’s planned to soon include the trees of the whole United States.

But the really clever thing about the app is that you can take a snap of a leaf (hence the name!), on a white background, it gets uploaded to the Leafsnap database and a list of the likely matches (and their) photos is returned to you!

Even if you don’t live in the northeast USA (I’m in the UK), it’s still a great library of tree species and many species are now living all over the world. I tried it with a couple of leafs taken from my average UK garden, and it identified an Acer (Maple – as in the featured image) and a Dogwood!

As well as being useful to find out what trees are what – how about using this with a Sunday School or youth group on a field trip (or woodland trip!) to learn about Creation and the world around you?  With Fall/Autumn being upon us – this could be really useful to see what trees turn what color!

So if you’re in the northeast USA (or your not!) – why not give Leafsnap a try!

You can find out more about the app on the Leafsnap website and the EarthSky blog.

[Image via Takutaka]


James Cooper

I'm a God loving, web designing (since the days of Netscape and IE5), bass, banjo and ukulele playing, geek! Follow James on Twitter | Circle James on Google+

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  1. says

    As an avid outdoorsman and a Christian who believes in stewardship of God’s Creation, I do not support the Leafsnap app because it requires people violate “Leave No Trace” and snap off a leaf, which is NOT good stewardship.

    See my post from last year on this: http://www.greeneadventures.com/2011/06/01/the-new-leafsnap-app-is-a-cool-concept-but-does-it-encourage-a-violation-of-leave-no-trace/

    Instead, I advocate using the more stewardship-friendly iNaturalist app: http://www.greeneadventures.com/2012/08/08/giving-inaturalist-a-try-on-our-hikes-and-outdoors-adventures/

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Colleen. The iNaturalist app looks interesting as well!

      I completely respect your views of ‘leave no trace’. What about using leaves which have fallen naturally (they’ll be plenty at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere!)?

      • says

        “Leave No Trace” purists advocate against removing dead leaves that have fallen (I have mixed feelings on that), but the LeafSnap app would indeed work by just picking up a fallen leaf to scan and then leaving that leaf in place again.

        Do give iNaturalist a try. It’s a very fun app (addictive, too). And I love the crowdsourced verification process.

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