All articles dealing with the Flora Incognita App (functions, updates, use).

“Sonja Bernadotte Award for Paths to Nature Education” 2023 for Flora Incognita

The “Sonja Bernadotte Award for Paths to Nature Education” is annually presented by the German Horticultural Society 1822 (DGG) and serves as a recognition for outstanding achievements in the field of nature education. The award aims to raise awareness about the importance of nature education and experiences, strengthen commitment to nature education, and provide financial support for such efforts. In 2023, the recipient of the Sonja Bernadotte Award is the plant identification app, Flora Incognita. The board justified their decision by stating that “Germany’s most popular plant identification app is not only appreciated and used by amateurs, but is also now employed and recommended by botanists.” The selection statement highlighted its high scientific standards and its significance as an interdisciplinary citizen science project. “It is an excellent example of the meaningful and profitable use of artificial intelligence, contributing to the democratization of knowledge and modern paths of nature education, both in the formal education of children, youth, and students, as well as in informal adult education.”

Dr. Jana Wäldchen from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and Prof. Patrick Mäder from the Technical University of Ilmenau received the award on October 20, 2023, at Schloss Dyck in Jüchen.



Ilmenau Science Night and Max Planck Day 2023

Ilmenau on the evening of July 1, 2023. People glance at their mobile phones to check if they’ll need an umbrella due to the weather. But is that all? No!

Some of them look at their phones to read about a pink-blooming wild plant: Epilobium angustifolium, it says, the Narrow-leaved Willowherb. Belongs to the Evening Primrose family and grows at the forest edge. Or Hypericum perforatum, the Common St. John’s Wort. “I know that as tea! So that’s how it looks?” Yes!

These situations and many similar ones were experienced as, on July 1, 2023, the doors of (among others) the Zuse Building at TU Ilmenau opened for Ilmenau Science Night, and many interested people came by to “personally meet Flora Incognita.” And we were well-prepared: With blooming wild plants in pots, an app quiz, and botanical tours around the university campus, but also with advanced offerings like microscopic examination of phytoplankton or information stands that explained how the Artificial Intelligence behind Flora Incognita is already being used to identify field wildflowers through drone images, or to support urban planners in creating bee-friendly landscapes.

Another focus of our presentation was to educate about how we conduct research with the plant identifications from the Flora Incognita app. Our scientists were eager to point out that the data already allows for the detection of phenological shifts in plant flowering phases, or that the spread of invasive species like Impatiens glandulifera can be monitored. In light of ongoing climate change, such information is very valuable; and with Flora Incognita’s new project feature, it’s easy for nature enthusiasts to conduct their own citizen science projects and analyze the observation data collected.

It’s always something special to engage with long-time fans and learn which aspects of the app are particularly popular and which ones have room for improvement. But we’re equally proud when we can dispel skepticism and encourage people to simply try out the app and start identifying plants. Fun Fact: Secretly, we like to count how many new installations we can achieve through our on-site efforts at such events!

But it’s not just in Ilmenau where we could convince: Also in Göttingen, where on June 23, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Day took place, we were present with an information booth on the marketplace. Unfortunately, due to persistent rain, not many people were out and about, but that allowed us to engage in longer and more intense conversations with interested individuals about our app, the loss of biodiversity, and our research work. In Göttingen, we were joined by scientists from the ATTO Tower (MPI for Biogeochemistry Jena and MPI for Chemistry Mainz), who invited attendees to climb the measurement tower in the Amazon rainforest and talk about their climate research using a VR station. A special highlight of the day was the visit of Prof. Patrick Cramer, the new president of the Max Planck Society, to our booth.

At this point, we would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to convey praise and criticism, ask questions, and be curious. Thanks also to Manuel Maidorn and the staff of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen for providing the many plants at the booth! Our gratitude also goes to our sponsors who make this public outreach possible.

See you soon!

collage of pictures taken at both events. They show our team on site, visitors on the booths, and plant identification with the Flora Incognita app.

Title image: Max Planck Society, photograph by David Ausserhofer

How to export your Flora Incognita records to a custom map (Google Maps, QGIS and R)

We get asked quite often of whether one can view the personal plant observations outside of the Flora Incognita app, for example in Google Maps or a Geographic Information System (GIS). The answer is simple: Yes, you can! In this article, you will find three tutorials for that – depending on your use case.

Exporting your data out of Flora Incognita

Regardless of the method you choose, first, you need to export your observations from the Flora Incognita app. To do that:

1) Open your observation list under My Observations from the home screen and tap on the Share icon at the top right.

2) You can now transfer either a .csv file or a .gpx file to your computer using various methods.

3) If you want to export your observations including the images, we recommend that you first filter the observation list to reduce the number of observations to be exported. The reason for this is the enormous increase in file size caused by the images.




Exporting Flora Incognita observations to Google Maps

With this method, you can view your findings in Google Maps on the desktop without requiring any additional software.

  1. Go to and start a new project under Get Started.
  2. Click on the Owned tab and select Create a New Map. You will get a blank map with its own context menu:
  3. Under Untitled Layer, click on Import and choose the previously exported .csv file.
  4. In the following menu, select the latitude and longitude columns. Click Continue.
  5. Now choose how your data points should be labeled. Choose name for the common name or scientific name for the scientific name. Click Finish. Note: The points are now marked but the labels are not visible yet.
  6. In the menu window, click on Uniform Style and choose the name you want to display under Label.
  7. Under Base Map, you can customize the underlying map as desired:
  8. Further individual adjustments are possible under the available menu options. Clicking on a data point will display the transferred meta-information.

Exporting Flora Incognita observations to QGIS

QGIS is a professional GIS application developed based on Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS). Choosing this option is useful if you work professionally or in your free time with GIS.

  1. Open QGIS and create a new project (Project -> New).
  2. In the left menu, select your map base layer under XYZ Tiles by double-clicking. In our example, we use OpenStreetMap. You can now zoom into the map.
  3. In the main navigation, select Layer -> Add Layer -> Add Delimited Text Layer.
  4. Choose your previously exported .csv file and check the extracted file format for the following parameters:
    • File format: CSV (comma separated values)
    • Geometry definition: X field: longitude; Y field: latitude
    • Geometry: EPSG:4326 – WGS 84

    Your data should look like this:

  5. Click Add at the bottom right and close the window. Now you will see your discoveries in the map, but still without labels. Learning how to customize your findings is the next step.
  6. Right-click on your Flora Incognita layer in the Layer panel to the left of the map. Select Properties.
  7. Under Label change the setting from No Label to Single Label. Under Value you can choose whether you want to display the scientific or the trivial name. Confirm with OK. The result looks like this:

Exporting Flora Incognita observations with R

R is a free programming language for statistical calculations and graphics. To follow this guide, you need to execute prepared scripts using the appropriate software. Basic knowledge of R is required.

  1. Go to and install the latest version of the R program.
  2. Go to and install the latest RStudio.
  3. Install and load the necessary libraries.


  1. Read your .csv file.

    dat<-read.csv("/your/path/your_file.csv", header=TRUE)
  1. Create and load the map. Closely located observations are clustered.

    map1 %
    addProviderTiles('OpenStreetMap.Mapnik') %>%
    addCircleMarkers(lng = ~longitude, lat = ~latitude,
    label =, radius=7, labelOptions = labelOptions(style = list("color" = "black"),
    noHide = T, textOnly=T, textsize = "10px", offset = c(1, 12)),
    color="black", clusterOptions = markerClusterOptions(spiderfyOnMaxZoom=T))

  1. Add the plant findings to the map. To display the trivial name, replace “” with “name”.

    map2 %
    addProviderTiles('OpenStreetMap.Mapnik') %>%
    addLabelOnlyMarkers(lng = ~longitude, lat = ~latitude, group="labs",
    label =, labelOptions = labelOptions(style = list("color" = "black"),
    noHide = T, textOnly=T, textsize = "10px", offset = c(1, 12))) %>%
    addCircleMarkers(lng = ~longitude, lat = ~latitude, color="black") %>%
    addCircleMarkers(lng = ~longitude, lat = ~latitude, radius=2, label =, color="white")
    addLabelgun(map2, group="labs")

  1. Export your map as an .html file
    saveWidget(map2, file="/yourpath/map.html")

    Screenshot from the map generated with R. Three plant findings are visible in a lake landscape.

You can also download the guide as a text file: R_MapExport_EN

Two hands hold a smartphone over a flower-rich meadow. The smartphone display shows the Flora Incognita App.

Press Release: New AI for Flora Incognita

“Flora Incognita”, Germany’s most popular plant identification app, has been further enhanced by a new artificial intelligence (AI) – as a result, the number of identifiable plant species has tripled: around 16,000 species can be identified worldwide. The app, available in 20 languages, now also works offline. Its range of digital educational content has been significantly expanded to include a wide range of new plant information.

Scientists from the Technical University of Ilmenau and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena have improved Flora Incognita with a new technological basis of self-learning, deep neural networks. Prof. Patrick Mäder, head of the Department of Data Intensive Systems and Visualisation and project leader of Flora Incognita at the TU Ilmenau, and the research team from Jena have made great efforts to develop innovative machine-learning training methods for these networks in the last months: “We immediately applied the new methods to the Flora Incognita app and were thus able to process millions of images of plants worldwide in our data center at the TU Ilmenau. With the right images, the new networks are able to classify many plant species with an accuracy of almost 100 per cent”.

For the new app version, user-friendliness and accessibility have also been improved. Plant finds can now be captured offline in nature, i.e. without a network connection, and automatically identified later (with internet access). Germany’s most popular plant identification app is also used by teachers at schools and universities to support education. Since school devices rarely have mobile internet, in particular this target group benefits from the new offline mode.

In addition, a new gamification element has been introduced: Users can collect badges for documenting certain plant groups. With this, they not only enjoy collecting plants themselves over a longer period of time,but they also strengthen the awareness of biodiversity in their social environment. At the same time, the app creates an incentive to document already known species or other plant groups, which provides scientists with important data for their research projects.

Another new feature is the possibility to use Flora Incognita for citizen science projects. Lay people involved in the project can identify plants as usual, for example, invasive species of a region, special trees, or the plant diversity of a school campus.  Those responsible for the citizen science project then receive the anonymized observation data for scientific and nature conservation evaluation.

But not only the technology of the Flora-Incognita app has improved. The data basis and the underlying information have also been expanded. Citizen scientists, i.e. interested laypeople, have contributed to this. With the “Flora Capture” app, which was specially developed for the scientific documentation of plants, thousands of images from defined perspectives have already been transmitted, which have contributed to a significant improvement in the identification accuracy of the German flora, especially for critical plant groups such as grasses. Students of the University of Applied Sciences Erfurt participated in the recording of thousands of trees, so that now identification is also possible in winter on the basis of bud images. The authors of the book “African Plants – A Photo Guide” and members of the Geisenheim University of Applied Sciences and the Dresden University of Applied Sciences provided further important data for the expansion of the identifiable species.

Co-project leader Dr. Jana Wäldchen from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena announces that the additional information offered in the app will be further expanded in the coming months: “We plan to supplement the plant fact sheets with additional exciting details. For example, we are thinking of information on how pollinator-friendly a species is or whether it is invasive. In this way, we would like to provide our users with interesting plant knowledge after the identification.

Flora Incognita now with offline mode

With our latest release of the Flora Incognita app, we are happy to give you two updates that many have asked for, in addition to numerous small bug fixes:

  • an offline mode
  • badges for 2023

An offline mode for Flora Incognita

Often, the most exciting plants grow where there is no internet coverage, or teachers want to use the app in an educational context, but the need for a mobile data connection makes this impossible. Now we have a solution for this: the offline mode. What does it do?

It allows you to record plants with the Flora Incognita app and save them as observations. However, you do not receive a plant name, but the observation is saved as “unknown herb or shrub”, “unknown tree”, etc. in your observation list. This also corresponds to the process that botanists would follow: What is not identified in the field is packed up and identified later. This is now also the case with the app. When you are back home (or somewhere with access to the internet), you can identify the unknown observations with a click and read the species fact sheets of the plants you have found – as usual.

By the way: Plants identified in offline mode also contribute to the worldwide monitoring of plant diversity – provided you have allowed Flora Incognita access to your location. In this case, the location of the plant is stored as meta-information at your observation.

Badges 2023

The introduction of the badges last year brought great joy to many users, and right in the first days of the new year we received many e-mails whether there will also be new badges for this year. Yes! They are now ready and waiting for you to collect them:

– Plant of the Year 2023: Collect the common self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)

– Tree of the Year 2023: Collect a brown birch (Betula pubescens)

– Poisonous Plant of the Year 2023: Collect parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

– Medicinal Plant of the Year 2023: Collect a vine (Vitis vinifera)

– Plant Society of the Year: Collect a representative of the Littorelletea uniflorae community

Have fun!

If you enjoy our app and plant identification, we would be very happy to receive a rating and a few kind words in the App Store. Thank you very much!

Identify trees, flowers, grass, fern, and cacti with the right characters

This article answers the question why it makes sense to select the correct growth form when identifying plants with the Flora-Incognita app.

Why select a growth form?

If you tap on ” Identify plant”, you will see a selection of images for certain growth forms in the lower area: flower (preselected), grass, tree, cactus and fern. Selecting the right growth form is important because for each of them different parts of the plant are better suited for identification. For example, on a tall tree it is difficult to photograph the flowers, while on a dandelion it makes little sense to ask for a picture of the bark. \nIf you are not sure what you are looking at, you can select the category “Other”. The identification will work here too, but may not be as precise. Also, you may be asked for an odd plant perspective.

Botanical growth form: Flower

This category is preselected because most people want to identify a “flower” or a shrub with Flora Incognita. Herbaceous plants do not lignify. There are annual, biennial and perennial herbaceous plants, but all flower and fruit only once before they eventually die. Shrubs are smaller than 2 metres and do not have a single, woody stem – which distinguishes them from trees.

Botanical growth form: Tree

Trees are characterised by their longevity and lignification; they also flower and fruit many times. They always have one stem that branches out to form a crown. Due to their size, leaves, flowers or fruits are often difficult to reach. Also, most of them flower only for a short time, which is why we ask for photos of leaves, bark or fruits, depending on the season, which are still good for identification even after they have fallen to the ground.

Botanical growth form: Grass

Use this category for grasses and sedges, which are characterized by long, thin leaves with parallel running nerves and lack of petioles. Their flowers are inconspicuous, sitting in spike-like or panicle-like inflorescences, such as those found on cereals, which are all grasses. At first glance, these species are difficult to distinguish, so it is important to get close. Especially the ligule, which is located between the leaf and the stalk, and single flowers are important for identification. Several very detailed and informative photos are necessary for a reliable identification.

Botanical growth form: Fern

Ferns often consist only of a basal rosette of leaves or individual leaves (fronds) that unroll with a fiddlehead. Since ferns form neither flowers nor fruits, they must be identified by their fronds. On their undersides, many species have conspicuous elevations (sori), in which the spores for reproduction are formed. The shape and arrangement of these elevations are often typical for the species. This makes them essential for identification. If fronds have no spores, they are sterile. These then often look different than the fertile fronds, although they belong to the same plant.

Botanical growth form: Cactus

Cacti come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Almost all are perennial shrubs (sometimes trees) whose stem has been transformed to store water. Young seedlings of cacti bear spines – transformed leaves – but some of these are shed later. The spines are formed by so-called areoles, specialised structures that are an important identifying trait of cacti. Besides spines, areoles also form flowers.  Adult cacti can have a diameter of only a few centimetres – or grow up to 15 metres high.

Let’s go! Collect Flora Incognita badges for a diverse range of plant observations!

Since 2018, nature lovers have been identifying and collecting wild flowering plants with our Flora Incognita app, and with the accompanied plant fact sheets, improved their species knowledge constantly. But, as you might know, Flora Incognita is more: Every confirmed observation (the green checkmark in the upper right corner after an identification) contributes to a vast, global collection of plant species observations with which our scientists research changes in biodiversity.

With our latest app release, we want to take this to a new level: We introduce the Flora Incognita badges! Each badge rewards the user for completing certain tasks: Collecting early-blooming flowers or grasses, the tree of the year, ferns or just using the app a couple of days in a row. You will find many challenges to solve – maybe you already have reached first goals?

You will find your collected badges in the profile section of the app. A tap on “Achievements” will lead you to an overview of all the tasks we have prepared for you. We hope this new feature will motivate you to look beyond the usual, take the extra path, examine plants even more closely. We’re looking forward to your feedback! A rating in the app store, a share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or even a recommendation to a friend are ways to spread the news that we highly appreciate!

If you find anything peculiar or working unexpectedly, send us an e-mail. And now, check out if you’ve already earned some badges!

Flora Incognita Update

Our new release brings you a modern and simplified user experience, and a whole bunch of new features to help you further enjoy your plant findings:

Identify Plants:

  • The new user interface is more modern and clear.
  • It’s now easier to capture and identify a plant in nature.
  • You can disable the autofocus with a new camera feature to make it much easier to take sharp photos of small objects.

Collect plant findings:

  • You can add pictures to an observation after the observation.
  • You can use your own keywords to sort and filter your plant findings more easily.
  • You can now view and filter your plant findings on a map.
  • You can more easily browse the general species list by using numerous filters.


  • Even without a personal profile, you can transfer your data to a new device.
  • You can save Flora Incognita pictures in your gallery.

Fact sheets:

  • We have added extensive information on invasive species in Central Europe.

Flora Incognita demonstrates high accuracy in Northern Europe

The Flora Incognita project aims to inspire people – to get to know their (botanical) surroundings better, but also to think outside the box and reflect on the possibilities of artificial intelligence, deep learning or biodiversity. A great example of this is what Jaak Pärtel did: As a student project, he investigated the accuracy of the Flora Incognita application in Estonia, Northern Europe and even published a paper about it! With this exceptional project, Jaak won the Estonian National Youth Science Competition! Congratulations, Jaak! Here is a short interview, to share more details.


Hello, Jaak, congratulations on your first place in the Estonian National Youth Science Competition. Would you have imagined that happening when you started the project?

I honestly had no idea about what my project would become in a year. However, I was certain from the beginning that I want to do something that would not be “just another student project”. I got very positive reviews for the project in school, so I thought I would give it a try in the national competition. I was really surprised when I heard the results for the competition. Even that was not all, as I have published a scientific article (co-authors Jana Wäldchen and Meelis Pärtel) based on the project’s dataset and will represent my country in the European Union Contest for Young Scientists 2020/2021 this September.

How did you get the idea to do this project?
My two interests were life sciences and technology, so I found a suitable combination of the two. I had heard of plant identification apps but was not sure how  I wanted to have a field works experience and collect an extensive dataset to analyse it statistically.

Can you explain briefly what you investigated and how you went about it?
I investigated the accuracy of the plant identification applications Flora Incognita. I conducted the study in two parts: one with 1500 plant images from a database and second with 1000 observations in Estonian wilderness. I also investigated whether plants with flowers were identified more accurately and how much time automated identification took compared to traditional methods.

What are your main results in the project?
The main result of my project was that both applications reached close to 80% in accuracy in Estonian field conditions, with the correct species among the top five suggestions in circa 90% of the observations. In field conditions, plants with flowers were identified considerably more accurately than ones without them. Automatic identification took one minute compared to over four minutes for manual identification. During my project, I also translated Flora Incognita into my national language – Estonian.

What were you telling bypassers when they saw you documenting flowers?  :-)
I had no such situations, as most of my field works took place in locations with little populace. However, I would have said that I am a researcher collecting a dataset about plant apps. A surprising number of people have at least heard about the apps and would probably understand my mission in the field.

What are your next plans?
As of now I am serving my country in mandatory conscription service but after that I will start my Bachelor’s studies of Biology and nature conservation in University of Tartu. I would like to pursue science as a carreer and use innovative and computational methods in biology.


Pärtel, J., Pärtel, M., & Wäldchen, J. (2021). Plant image identification application demonstrates high accuracy in Northern Europe. AoB PLANTS. Volume 13, Issue 4, (Editors’ Choice)
Images: Jaak Pärtel