Identification Software

Jim Croft jrc at ANBG.GOV.AU
Sat Mar 18 16:44:55 CST 1995

Steve Gough wrote:

> To supplement traditional methods of identifying vascular plants (mostly
> trees and shrubs) in a Plant Ecology course, I would like to construct a
> software-based system for common items.  I don't need the rigor of a
> DELTA-based system; rather I would like something that uses simple
> descriptive characteristics (perhaps a list of characteristics up front)
> and then determines one or more possible "hits," with the option to view
> line art or photographs on screen.  Does anyone know what software I
> might use to construct something like this?  It should be PC-compatible,
> and operation under Windows would be nice.

Not really an application for a home PC (although I suppose you could
cram it in), but you might be interested in the smarts developed by Andrew
Taylor (andrewt at,
at the University of NSW.

Andrew, a computer science engineer rather than a botanist, took some
English language botanical descriptions (Eucalyptus and Angophora from
the Flora of Australia), minced them through some clever natural
language processing algorithms, and reversed engineered a more or less
recognizable DELTA dataset.

He made the dataset queryable on the WWW with clients/browsers with
forms cabability (Mosaic, Netscape, etc.) both as a set of independent
menus and a set of check boxes.

Using some nifty lateral thinking, he figured one could use the same
algorithm to parse an arbitrary description of a plant, and then match
the result of this description against the already parsed dataset.  The
result is a dialog box in which you write a natural language description
of the plant and let the server find the best matches for you.

It may not be bomb-proof, but it is a bloody clever and interesting

You can find this application on:

This is research in progress at a computer engineering school, and the
server is often under a lot of strain and not available, but it is worth
having a look at the outline and the interfaces.

-- jim                    URL=
Jim Croft         [Herbarium CANB & CBG]          internet: jrc at
Australian National Herbarium &                      voice:  +61-6-246 5500
Australian National Botanic Gardens               faxmodem:  +61-6-2509 484
GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2601, AUSTRALIA            fax:  +61-6-246 5249
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