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Iphone App that could really come in handy to Permaculturists

 
Belizaire Meaux
Posts: 17
Location: Louisiana
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Read a story http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-professor-mobile-app-species.html about this app that uses face recognition technology to identify plants based on leaves. You take a picture with the phone and it tells you. I think they are limited to trees in the north east currently, but as the scale of the project grows i could  see it being very beneficial to people trying to live off of the land.

http://leafsnap.com leaf snap is the name of the app
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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That is fantastic!

Gotta keep an eye on this one...
 
                            
Posts: 56
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this sort of thing scares me, and here's why. i've seen people who use computers treat them as substitutes for their own mental faculties and this causes severe atrophy of awareness. high tech gizmos that replace your own instinctual ability to come to know a plant are going to provide one more veil over the world and conceal possibility for real relationship with the more-than-human.

plant identification isn't a one way thing, and it's not just about look. it's about feel and smell and taste and heart and soul. you will not so much come to identify the plant as the plant will come to identify you and call out, "hey!" whenever you come wandering through. this isn't kooky nonsense, this is simply based on our inborn ancestral awareness that comes from aeons of intimate play through the various ecotones of our homelands.

there are many good field guides out there for the beginner and though i'd recommend seeking out folks who can show you a few plants, it's definitely possible to learn on your own. for the northeast and even into the midatlantic and appalachians, i find newcomb's field guide to be good with the audobon wildflower guide as a cross check. also essential is "botany in a day" by thomas elpel which is all about the patterns of the plant families, a great way to have a mental map through which to intuit who you may have come across.

take root,
~wildeyes
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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I agree with the sentiment of your post entirely Wildeyes.  Part of me feels the same way.  But I think a big issue is that we have lost our elders to teach us these things from childhood.  Many of us could use a quicker guide to get us on the right track instead of taking hours to identify one rare plant - which I have done, literally.  I have used field guides many times in the past when I first identify a new species, but then I know that one and I don't need to look it up any more.

Just my thoughts.
Doc K
 
Gord Welch
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
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For a practice that requires intimate knowledge of land and plant species it seems this wouldn't be useful at all to the permaculturist.

I agree with wildeyes, too. It is a step in the wrong direction.
 
                      
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I think this could be incredibly useful. There are ~315,000 species of plants identified by botanists; if you have the spiritual insight to identify them all good for you. The rest of us might appreciate a more practical solution. No one will need this for plant they already know and have an understanding of. It is the ones that we haven't seen before or haven't been able to find in guides.

I don't see how this is practically any different from a field guide.

 
Gord Welch
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
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Practically it is different because it takes zero knowledge to use it. A field guide requires a bit o'knowledge to find what you want.
 
Gord Welch
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
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Munin, it's not about the information. But about how we get there.

It is better to know how we have arrived at a place and how that place fits into its surroundings and is defined by those surroundings than to just know the place.

I'm not opposed to the app itself. I'm not telling you not to use it - it's just not what I want and I don't think it's the best thing overall.

-->What do you mean by "spiritual insight" in terms of identifying plants?
 
                            
Posts: 56
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Munin wrote:
I think this could be incredibly useful. There are ~315,000 species of plants identified by botanists; if you have the spiritual insight to identify them all good for you. The rest of us might appreciate a more practical solution. No one will need this for plant they already know and have an understanding of. It is the ones that we haven't seen before or haven't been able to find in guides.

I don't see how this is practically any different from a field guide.



I think it's like when I see folks carrying cameras around with them, wanting to stop to take pictures, to "make memories," and yet they are making memories not with presence but through a device, as if the experience they are having is not enough and requires mediation.

I want to encourage folks to develop their own cognitive abilities because once you do, the world opens up, and you'll quickly be able to get to know plants even when you can't find a name for them. I have severe doubts that hi-tech gizmos will enhance a person's abilities. We're not computers and we don't store databases of information, we're animals and we're trackers. If you don't know how to track, who cares if you can spit out information about something?
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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Location: zone 7
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im with wildeyes. i prefer my brain to do what it is supposed to do. rather than get lazy and let a computer do it. once you truly identify a plant you can spot them from a mile away( literally with some plants/trees), i witness people misidentify plants right in front of me, with the guide book in their hands all the time.

the best place to learn what a plant is, is from someone who already knows. from there further research can be done on the plants uses, its pros its cons, etc...
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20501
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I deleted one post here and am thinking about others.  i would like to ask folks to look at their posts and consider stating their own position without bashing the positions of others.

When I look for posts to delete, I usually search the page for the word "you".

I would like to remind folks about the be nice thread that has tips on how we all get along here.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20501
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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In the mid-80's I made something at a university that was sorta pre-internet-forums.  Most folks liked it.  I remember one professor hated it because he thought it would make things easier for cheaters to cheat.  So it should therefore be banned.

I know there has recently been some stuff about how craigslist is getting into trouble because bad people are using it to do bad things.  But how many criminals are able to do more crime because of their uses of cars?  Or phones?  Or flying to some faraway country on an airplane after the crime.

How many people choose to not use these forums because this sort of knowledge should come only face-to-face?  Even permaculture books should be avoided because they are not personal enough. 

I support folks not using stuff for whatever cooks their chicken.  At the same time, I like to see information presented in a diversity of ways.  The more the information gets out there, I think we will be better able to grow in this space.


 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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I downloaded it, and have played with it. It's free, so there's no downside.  It's a beautiful app with amazing pictures.  Haven't tried to identify anything yet - not sure when the makers will catch up and have west coast trees represented.  I think there is great potential here.  I don't have a botanist friend to walk me around the woods, so this app is a great find for me.  I think once I learn what a tree looks like, I will "know" that one, and won't have to look it up again.  Before long, I won't use this app at all.
 
Gord Welch
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
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Understanding your point about getting knowledge out, I still think there is a fundamental difference between thinking about how you come to knowledge and simply knowing. Depending on what we're doing there is a need for both.

For me, there is the question of the cost of deleting the person and/or the path...
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9456
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Anything that encourages folks to learn more about plants looks like a good thing to me. 

 
Belizaire Meaux
Posts: 17
Location: Louisiana
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im anxious to see once they start getting data to grow exponentially. Shazaam for biology. I had actually talked with a programmer friend about making an app like this. But this guy already did the facial recognition software and i stumbled on the finished product already made.

Would be amazing that once they get a large amount of info to provide uses for the plants and symbiotic beneficial possibilities, herbal medicine, and edibility.
 
kirk dillon
Posts: 61
Location: Maple City Michigan
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I see both sides of this issue. I agree with both to some extent. Let's say I'm on my property and see an "unknown" plant. Do I then get an expert out to my property to teach me about it, or am I supposed to just "understand" it on my own. I would use an app like this to identify an "unknown", keep me from poisoning myself or something. Even if it just tells me the name of it, that would make it easier to research it with a field guide or the internet or a local expert. I've also read some publications that just give a botanical name of a plant or tree, maybe I could use this in reverse to type in that name and then see a picture of it. In my opinion, knowledge is good, wherever it comes from.
 
gani et se
Posts: 215
Location: Douglas County OR
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I downloaded this app and began to browse, not having any leaves to hand. Thought I'd start simply -- madrone. Typed in m...a...d [no results]. Hmm, maybe the Latin name is arbutus or something. Type in a...r...b no arbutus in the two results. So still pretty lean on west coast plants. I wonder if it's possible to help them get in.
I wouldn't rely on it for something I have to know, but if it has any info it'd be fun to get an idea. I'll post again after I can check some leaves.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
Posts: 363
Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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I agree with Kirk's thinking. It wouldn't be the end all, be all and I don't know that I would fully trust it completely. I mean really, how many plants look almost identical and how many have variances in their leaves but are the same plant, maybe in a different location. I think that it would be useful to either confirm what you are already thinking from your research or it is something that could start you in the right direction for reasearching a plant. It should be a tool that is used with other tools, not as a stand alone tool. Even if it identified something, I would think that you would want to cross check with some other resources just to be sure. I know that if I see something and wonder if it is edible, I go through multiple resources to determine what it is. You have to be careful, because, while there is a lot of good information out there, there is also a lot of incorrect information. Just knowing the name of a plant doesn't mean you really know about the plant and I think that if you are studying and working on permaculture, you will dig beyond the basic identification to determine if this particular plant has any or multiple applications for your site. Permaculture tends to dig pretty deep into the purposes and uses/benefits of plants and, while I don't have an Iphone to find out, I cannot imagine the ap would give enough information to satisfy a permie completely. Sounds like a useful tool to add to the toolbox for quick checks.
 
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