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NC State Extension

Identify a Plant

en Español

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Identifying plants in the wild or in cultivation requires specialized training and resources. Wildflower guides or gardening books may be useful, but they may not have complete information or coverage for your geographic area. The easiest way to identify a plant, short of consulting an expert, is to use apps found on most mobile phones or that can be downloaded for use on the go. These apps use photos that you provide to suggest plant identifications.

A successful identification from a photo requires a good, clear, close-up photograph of the plant, especially of the flowers and the leaves. Success will also depend on having your location data on your phone turned on. Once you have a good photo, you can use features found on most phones, such as the Look Up feature on iPhones or Google Lens, or free, downloadable apps, such as iNaturalist (which is especially useful for wild plants) or PlantNet. These apps are available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play. For identifying native and naturalized plants in North Carolina and the Southeast, the Flora of the Southeastern United States website is especially valuable for its keys, descriptions and photos. A mobile app covering the plants in the Carolinas and Georgia is in development. Additional resources are available through online keys and images galleries from the NC State Herbarium.

Disclaimer: Photo-based identification apps are not correct 100% of the time. They sometimes lead to the wrong name. You are advised to treat plant names suggested by apps as provisional until they can be confirmed by an expert botanist, naturalist, horticulturist, or other trained professional. 

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