Under the direction of the French government, botanists André Michaux and his son, François-André, explored the forests of North America from 1785 to 1796. They were researching new tree species to repopulate the French countryside, whose forests had been depleted by war.
Matt Ritter is a botany professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, director of university's plant conservatory, and author of a new field guide, A California's Guide to the Trees Among Us (Heydey Books, 2011). I recently visited Dr. Ritter at his Southern California home, and he gave me a tour of his favorite local plants, his eucalyptus-decorated office, and Cal Poly's wonderful herbarium.
Fresh from the digital fields and humming with plant life, LeafSnap is a new mobile app that can identify a tree's species by looking at a photograph of the leaf. It's the first of app of its kind, and a field guide for the twenty-first century. Using facial recognition algorithms to analyze the leaf's contour, LeafSnap then selects a match from its index of species. If it's not entirely sure (let's be fair—leaves of different species can look rather similar), it will bring up a list of possible identifications.