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Get to know your trees with a snappy new app

22 May, 2014

Categories:
Museums
Schools and education
Science and environment

For anyone who doesn’t know their oak from their elm, the Natural History Museum has launched a new tree identification app. Leafsnap UK uses technology similar to facial recognition software, by matching a simple photograph of a leaf against a database of 156 potential UK tree species, in seconds. Nature enthusiasts and budding botanists will be able to satisfy their curiosity and contribute to science with the tap of a button. The app’s launch marks the International Day for Biological Diversity.

The Museum collaborated with Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution in the US to develop Leafsnap UK. As well as instant species identification, the app has more than 2,000 high-resolution images of leaves, flowers, fruit and bark. Users can zoom in to see incredible detail, such as the fine hairs on a common beech leaf (Fagus sylvatica). There are also fact files, including whether the tree is native or introduced, where it grows, when it blooms and additional clues to help with identification.

Leafsnap UK was developed using the expertise of Natural History Museum scientists, including Dr Fred Rumsey, botanist and identification expert. He comments, ‘Leafsnap UK is an exciting development for us, bringing Museum knowledge and expertise right into the palm of people’s hands. The app will help people to identify and explore the UK’s fantastic diversity of trees, by combining identification technology with beautiful images and fact files. I hope the app also inspires people to spend time outside, enjoying and appreciating their local green spaces, and perhaps to even get involved with some of our other citizen science projects.’

When users photograph leaves, in addition to suggesting possible species, the app uploads the image and its associated geographical location to the Leafsnap database for future use by scientists researching Britain’s tree population, helping to map out which species are found where.

The US version of the app launched in 2011 and includes trees found in the northeast region of the USA.

Leafsnap UK is currently available for iPhone and iPad from the App Store. For more information go to: www.nhm.ac.uk/leafsnap

Ends

Notes to editors

  • Winner of Best of the Best in the Museums + Heritage Awards 2013, the Natural History Museum welcomes five million visitors a year. It is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise it is helping to understand and maintain the diversity of the planet, with groundbreaking partnerships in more than 70 countries. For more information go to www.nhm.ac.uk

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