LeafSnap is a free iPad app designed by Columbia University, Smithsonian, and the University of Maryland for the purpose of helping people identify plants by taking pictures of them on their iPads. With LeafSnap installed on your iPad or iPhone you can take a picture of a leaf, upload it to the app, and then the app’s visual recognition technology will help you identify the name of the plant. It doesn’t work for all leaves and you do need to isolate the leaf be before you take a picture of it. In other words, you can’t just snap a picture of a big tree and ask LeafSnap to identify it.
If taking pictures of leaves is not a practical option for you and your students, LeafSnap still has valuable content for you. LeafSnap offers a large gallery of pictures of leaves. The gallery is organized alphabetically. Tap on any picture in the gallery to see more pictures of the same leaf, descriptions of the tree that it grows on, and where those trees grow.
Applications for Education
I often encourage teachers to think of ways to use iPads and other mobile devices for outdoor learning activities. Earlier this week I shared the Merlin Bird ID app that helps students identify birds. Between that app and LeafSnap your students could have a summer filled with making observations and learning about the nature around them.