Max Planck Gesellschaft

Research group: Flora Incognita


The aim of the “Flora Incognita” research group is to develop a method for semi-automatic plant identification via mobile devices. Challenging current standards, modern computer vision techniques such as deep neural networks will be combined to a "connected data" application, using site information (e.g. climate, geology, phenology) and plant morphological traits.


Name Position E-mail Phone Room
Jana Wäldchen Group leader jwald +49 3677 69 4849 C3.005 (tower) or TU Ilmenau
Michael Rzanny PostDoc mrzanny ...6222 C3.005 (tower)
Alice Deggelmann Scientific assistant adeggel +49 7172 9329311 C3.005 (tower)
Negin Katal PhD student nkatal ...6222 C3.005 (tower)
Ulrich Weber Technical assistant uweber ...6285 C1.010 (tower)

Current Project

Flora Incognita - interactive plant species identification with mobile devices


Many factors are needed to make the loss of biodiversity visible. One of them is to improve species knowledge - not only among experts, but for every person who wants to know what surrounds them.
For this purpose, the research group "Flora Incognita" developed a mobile app that has been released free on iOS and in the Google Play Store since 2018. Since its release, 32 Mio observations have already been received. The app leverages modern computer vision techniques such as deep neural networks with a "connected data" apprach, using site information (e.g. climate, geology, phenology) and plant morphological traits for semi-automatic species identification.

The collected finding data are used to answer questions of plant species monitoring and phenology.

The Flora Incognita Project is a joint effort of the Ilmenau University of Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena. It was funded from 2014 to 2020 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, and the Stiftung Naturschutz Thüringen. Since 2019, the partners have been working on the follow-up project Flora Incognita++ and are funded by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and by the Thuringian Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Nature Conservation.

More about the Flora Incognita Project

On the project website you will find information on the Flora Incognita organization, the latest news and how to join Flora Incognita activities. You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook

Latest News

March 2021: Trailblazer in conservation biology

On the background of the MPG’s focus on female pioneers of science, Jana Wäldchen talked about the inspiring life of British biodiversity researcher and conservation biologist Georgina Mace (1953-2020), the importance of Biodiversity and about Flora Incognita.

Link to full article

May 2020: Thuringian Research Prize in 2020

One third of the plant species in Germany is listed as endangered, tendency increasing. At the same time, the number of people with species knowledge is continuously decreasing. But how can we protect species that we don’t recognize? The Flora Incognita research project combines smartphones, artificial intelligence and citizen participation in an app that interactively and automatically identifies plants based on image recordings. With every successful application, the app learns and improves its recognition accuracy. At the same time, the records of the identified species and locations create valuable data sets to answer questions of species protection and biodiversity. More than 1 million people, from enthusiastic laypersons to biology professors, are already using the free app. The interdisciplinary project team from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the TU Ilmenau was honored for its development with the Thuringian Research Prize in the category of applied research.

Link to full article

(Photo: arifoto UG )

August 2019: Scientists for one day: primary school children on excursion with Flora Incognita

A meadow is more than just a green carpet of grass. Today, 22 children from the Jenaplan School came to this conclusion and used their summer vacation trip to make scientific discoveries. The school students between the ages of 7 and 11 went on an excursion around the building of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry at Beutenberg Campus together with their tutors. Under the guidance of project team member Alice Deggelmann and prospective teacher Richard Niemann, they learned how to identify wild plants in a playful way.

Link to full article

(Photo: S. Hejja )

Key papers

Mäder, P., Boho, D., Rzanny, M., Seeland, M., Wittich, H. C., Deggelmann, A., Wäldchen, J. (in press). The Flora Incognita app – interactive plant species identfication. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.13611.
Rzanny, M., Mäder, P., Deggelmann, A., Chen, M., Wäldchen, J. (2019). Flowers, leaves or both? How to obtain suitable images for automated plant identification. Plant Methods, 15: 77. doi:10.1186/s13007-019-0462-4.
Wäldchen, J., Mäder, P. (2018). Machine learning for image based species identification. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 9(11), 2216-2225. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.13075.

Follow link for a complete list of publications by the research group.

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