When I left New York and arrived in Frankfurt, I had to call a girlfriend in London to learn that the Sachsenhausen riverside is poplar-lined.

Today we no longer talk to each other, so it’s good that Peter Belhumeur has brought to market leafsnap, a free of charge iPhone app, which identifies trees by their leaves. You take a snapshot of a single leaf preferably placed on a piece of paper and leafsnap returns the name of the tree. It also works with flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to include the trees of the entire continental United States. Let’s not get ahead of the game, but make good use of leafsnap, eventually one day it may include countries of Europe as well. Columbia University, University of Maryland and Smithsonian Institute are collaborately working on establishing and curating leafsnap’s database. More than for reconciliation, I wish for leafsnap to expand its bionic powers and come up with similar apps such as birdsnap, recognizing birds by their chirps. I trust it will increasingly take mobile technology for us urban animals and our young to become reconnected with nature and recognize its beauty. Leafsnap turns users into citizen scientists, automatically sharing images, species identifications, and geo-coded stamps of species locations with a community of scientists who will use the stream of data to map and monitor the ebb and flow of flora nationwide.

The Leafsnap family of electronic field guides aims to leverage digital applications and mobile devices to build an ever-greater awareness of and appreciation for biodiversity. Get leafsnap here.

leafsnap website

free iPhone app, leafsnap recognizes trees by their leaves