Identification Tool

Plant identification tool for mangrove species

Juliana PROSPERI, Botanist – applied informatics (CIRAD)


Identifying a plant, that is giving it a name and distinguishing it from all the others, is sometimes complicated. It is however with its identity that you will have to start if you want to know more, to know where and how it grows, if their fruits are edible, if the leaves, roots or stems have medicinal properties, and if so how to use they … knowing the plant name we can find a lot of information useful to our lives.

But the plant identification is generally a matter of specialists. Why? Because it is necessary to know what to observe in a plant in order to identify it.

For example, one of the characters easy to observe and useful feature for identification is the arrangement of the leaves on the stem, are they alternate (one leaf per node) or opposite (two leaves per node)?

Botanical expertise is being lost, in part because of the lack of academic training. In addition, the traditional methods of identifying plants are the “Flores”, specific books which do not tolerate any error and impose the choice as well as the order of questions, mainly based on flowers to identify species. Finally, the use of technical terms does not facilitate the identification process for non-specialists

In the CIRAD institution we have been working for several years on a Plant Identification System named IDAO (French acronym: IDentification Assistée par Ordinateur) developed in order to facilitate the process of identifying plants. The originality of this software lies mainly in the use of an identikit (user graphic interface) which reconstructs the plant using simple graphic representations.

In the framework of Mikoko project we develop one application accessible by Internet allowing the identification of more than 50 mangrove species. This application will be also developed for mobile devises like smart telephones or tablets.

The navigation page basically contains simple drawings representing a theoretical plant (the Identikit) and a menu with different functionalities on the right side of the screen.

Figure 1: Mangrove Identikit or user graphic interface

The Mangrove Identikit is organized around 3 main zones or drawings representing different botanical characters: the tree with roots on the left of the interface, the stem with leaves in the center and a detail of the leaf on the right side of the interface. The drawings are simple to facilitate the understanding of the users and theoretical enough to evoke a given organ without corresponding it to a particular species.

The user has to examine or observe the plant he wants to identify in order to find in it the available characters presented in the plant as the shape of the plant, the type of roots, the leaf type, the type of fruit, the color of the flowers, …and so on. Then by a simple click on the frames of the identikit, or on the different drawings, the user can chose the botanical characters available in the software and that match with its plant.

 When the user slide the cursor on one of the drawings or frames, a link gives the name of the botanical character.


Kenyan mangrove species

Local name in Swahili


Rhizophora mucronata          



Ceriops tagal



Bruguiera gymnorhiza



Sonneratia alba



Avicennia marina



Lumnitzera racemosa



Xylocarpus granatum



Xylocarpus moluccensis

Mkomafi dume


Heritiera littoralis