What's Invasive!

Here's a promising app for your smart phone / iDevice from UCLA's Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS).

I stumbled across the What's Invasive app for Android and iPhone last night.  The idea is that you can take a geo-referenced (with your handy GPS) photo of an invasive plant and/or make a brief note.  The photo is then sent to a central server where they can be publicly evaluated (so that everyone knows that you aren't taking photos of your kids and calling them weeds) and mapped so that remediation efforts can be well-targeted.

The Whats Invasive! website has a variety of areas defined for this mapping effort, but on the iPhone the only region that can currently be reported is the Santa Monica mountains - a useful target area for test due to its proximity to Santa Monica / West LA and the scads of iPhoners that live there.  The Andriod app works with all reporting areas.

If you are not an iPhone or Android user you can still participate by regular mobile phone or old fashioned email / web access.  They don't appear to have telegram or postcard interfaces written yet.

If your favorite reporting area is not defined, then you can create your own on their web site, subject to admin approval. I've created a Palos Verdes Penninsula locale, but beyond Brassica and Foeniculum I'm not sure what invasive species to put there. I seem to recall a recent threat by a new invasive species that had thought to be a non-issue.

  • Mobile Phones. Non GPS-enabled phones are also useful for capturing notes and photos (see Instructions: Email), and geolocation can be establshed later through our website (see Instructions: My Data & Photos) help page.
  • Email & Web. Email us (with optional photo) with the plant name as the subject to: mobile@whatinvasive.com. Or, log in and go to the My Data page to create a new observation from your computer. Read more on our Instructions: email associations help page.

Two other apps that might appeal to readers of this blog that use the same or similar mapping strategy are:
  • Biketastic! for documenting good routes and for collecting data to improve them.
  • What's Bloomin for recording locations of blooming plants in your neighborhood.
However, quick checks on their web presence seemed to indicate that they are not quite fully formed yet. I suggest a check back later.


  1. Spurge was mentioned at a PVLC meeting as a threat and there is some in Lunada Canyon. The Conservancy seems to have thrown up their hands as far as brassica and foeniculum are concerned. The attitude seemed to be they can't get rid of them so let's call them native!

    How do I get to your PV site from What's-invasive?

  2. I've been asked to do a little more book-keeping on the PV database before it's ready for prime time. It's identifier will be PVPEN. Specifically, I've been asked to provide images that are copyright-free or used with permission. The invasive plants I've identified at present are:

    anise, fennel

    Giant Reed

    Terracina Spurge

    Castor Bean

    Based on emails, the What's Invasive! folk seem enthusiastic about adding more areas, so I'd hope that once I put some images up we can go live.

  3. I did a little more work on this today and I've found some images on the USDA PLANTS database that are useful and proven that I can upload them from my computer.

    I'm waiting on permission to use some Euphorbia images from elsewhere on the web and then it ought to work.

  4. I've been corresponding with Dr. Eric Graham at UCLA, who is the staff biologist who is shepherding What's Invasive!. See

    He writes "I was expecting the iPhone app to come out in about 3 weeks but we hit a snag with UCLA accounting, which will not pay for a freelance programmer without some push-back from us. So we are pushing right now."

    These sorts of snags seem to be universal.