Know Your Enemy

The trees on our street. I know the one on the right is a pear. And there’s a red maple on the left. But a few of them were mysteries.

Years ago I was in England with Roy Underhill (no, this is not a Penthouse letter), and we had to walk from our hotel to a restaurant to meet Peter Follansbee (I know this sounds like a woodworker’s wet dream, but, well… OK it was). 


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It was a long walk, and we had to pass through some woods and walk by a canal. And during the entire walk, Roy is pointing out all the names of the trees and plant life. “That’s a Grimblethorne – punicus polifficus! And look at the size of that Shandyback Fufflenewt tree – you never see them in a stand of three like that. Did you know the Fufflenewt tree was an important player in the Battle of Hastings? And that its bark was ground down in former times to use as a poultice for people suffering from dingleworm?”

And then I realized: I know almost nothing about living trees, except for the obvious species – oak, maple, walnut, locust, cherry. When my kids ask me: “What kind of tree is that?” My standard answer is: “Let’s kill it, and I can tell you.”

If you are like me, there is help for this problem. I recently found an app called Picture This that identifies plant life and really, really works. I’ve toyed around with a lot of other apps that identify trees, and none has made me happy. 

Picture This is expensive for an app – $30 a year. But during the past week it has brought me more joy than even the weather radar app on my phone (ask Megan about how much I love my radar). I have spent many mornings identifying all the trees and bushes in our Covington neighborhood. And then reading more about them through the app.

Picture This also does a lot of other things that don’t interest me, such as diagnosing plant diseases and suggesting how to care for them. Sorry people, I still just want to kill trees. 

The interface is pretty easy to use. While inside the app you point the phone’s camera at the tree and press a button. In a couple seconds it identifies the plant and spits out a bunch of information about it, including how to care for it, where the species grows, poems about it, symbolism it is associated with, etc. etc.

If you think I’m full of it, you can try the app free for seven days.

— Christopher Schwarz

Disclaimer: Nobody paid me for this blog entry. I bought the app with my own damn money. Blah, blah, blah.


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