"Scientists have developed the first mobile app to identify plants by simply photographing a leaf. The free iPhone and iPad app, called Leafsnap, instantly searches a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds, it returns
a likely species name, high-resolution photographs and information on the tree's flowers, fruit, seeds and bark. ...
Leafsnap debuted in May, covering all the trees in New York's Central Park and Washington's Rock Creek Park. It has been downloaded more than 150,000 times in the first month, and its creators expect it to continue to grow as it expands to Android phones.
Smithsonian research botanist John Kress, who created the app with engineers from Columbia University and the University of Maryland, said it was originally conceived in 2003 as a high-tech aid for scientists to discover new species in unknown habitats.
The project evolved, though, with the emergence of smartphones to become a new way for citizens to contribute to research.
..Leafsnap cost about $2.5 million to develop, funded primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation. It will cost another $1 million to expand it within the next 18 months to cover all the trees of the United States, involving about 800 species.
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