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App Ed: A Digital Green Thumb

LikeThat Garden is crucial for wannabe horticulturalists

Other than fantastic sushi, Wi Spa and medical marijuana, one of the cooler things about living in Los Angeles is the amount of flora that surrounds you — casually, even. Plants and flowers in Los Angeles taunt me wherever I turn: They are so beautiful, so healthy and vibrant, so seemingly happy to have been germinated here on the west coast — where even if they have to snake their way through some uncomfortable concrete, they’re still going to get the best sunlight going.

New to L.A. and a lover of photosynthesis—and flower arrangements I occasionally “heart” on Instagram—I was immediately obsessed with the new varietals of leaves, petals and stalks that suddenly surrounded me. I had a few favorites — “Uhhh, that purple tree thing?” and “Okay, so it’s a cactus but it’s neon yellow” — all without proper names. How was I to tag these things in my aspirational Instagram posts?

Luckily, I found an app-related (of course) solution: LikeThat Garden.

The confusingly named LikeThat Garden (which doesn’t at all reveal what the app does, other than identify it as something to do with gardening) lets you take a photo of a mysterious flora, then searches its database for shapes and colors that might match it. It also will take into account where you took the photo and which plants are native to that area. When people use the the app to successfully identify a plant, it will add that to its database — thereby, ideally, growing in accuracy over time.

How accurate is LikeThat Garden, exactly? I tried to trip it up with a photo of a colorful bag of Cheetos — maybe the bright hues would have it guessing “California Poppy?” or something else equally orange.

Alas, LikeThat Garden was on to me.

I tried again, photographing the lovely yellow cactus-looking plant a friend had sent me for my birthday. Would LikeThat Garden be able to provide with its proper name?

Again and again, the app would become the center of attention — at a backyard barbecue we identified a friend’s flowering bush as “Oleander”; on the roof of a bar in downtown L.A. a mysterious succulent became known as “Elephant Bushes” thanks to my green-thumbed app.

The idea that this app will become more accurate as more and more people use it should be enough to turn us all into plant sleuths — snapping and scanning wherever we go. But even if all it does is get me to stop and appreciate the scenery once in a while? It’s worth it.