Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Magic of Plant Snap and The Taste of Honeysuckle Tea

The other day, while strolling through our neighborhood, I came across large swath of greenery dotted with delightful flowers:

My first instinct was to snap pics. Which I did. A lot. Then I turned to new app I've been playing with: Plant Snap. Plant Snap identifies plants from a picture you take within the app.

The concept reminds me of this classic commic:

To my shock, the app works surprisingly well. I tried it on a number of known plants and it properly identified most of them.  On unknown plants, it has served to give me a solid starting point. The app isn't magic and I wouldn't trust it blindly. But as a tool for the amateur botanist, especially one who doesn't want to nag others to learn about plants, the app appears to be a winner.

At $9.99/year, Plant Snap isn't cheap. But it has one notable feature which may justify the price: if automatic plant ID fails you can supposedly get a knowledgeable human to step in and help.

Back in front of the pretty flowers I snapped a pic with PlantSnap:

I was looking at Japenese Honeysuckle. Follow up research showed this to be true. I'm still amazed that the app guessed this from a single picture of a leaf.

Reading up on honeysuckle, it's a wonder  I didn't instantly recognize the plant myself. It's one of those classic plants that was brought to the US with such promise, and then proceeded to wreak utter havoc. While the plant is medicinally promising, pretty and easy to grow, it's fast growth and habit of strangling other plants means it's often considered an invasive weed.

Honeysuckle smells delightful, and a quick Google search revealed that you can make tea from the flowers. Which naturally I had to do. The stand of honeysuckle I found was on public land and plentiful, so I had no qualms about picking a few flowers to give this tea a try.

Preparation was simple: I put the flowers in a small glass jar, added boiling water and waited. I ran the drink through a strainer and found myself with a warm cup of yellow-green tinted liquid. I took a sip: it tasted flowery, woody and leafy. It wasn't love a first sip, but it wasn't bad either. On a backpacking trip, where everything tastes better, I bet having some fresh honeysuckle tea would be a nice treat.

I've always tried to treat my local environment as a sort of treasure hunting grounds: the gems are there, you just need to look past the see-it-everyday blindess that sets in. Plant Snap is the perfect tool for embracing this philosophy. Every random green thing in your neighborhood is now a click away from revealing its identity. So get snapping.

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