Use of remote sensing and image processing for identification of wild orchids

Shara Ahmed, Jack Lightbown, Simon R. Rutter, Nabanita Basu, Catherine Nicholson, Justin Perry, John Dean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A novel multi-technique approach has been applied for the identification and mapping of wild orchids using a combination of remote sensing and spectral image analysis. The five orchid species identified were the common spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia), heath spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata), pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), heath fragrant-orchid (Gymnadenia borealis), and the dark-red helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens). Field studies have been done using a hand-held spectrometer operating in the 400-700 nm visible spectrum, photogrammetry using a digital camera as well as a multispectral image (MSI) camera operating at the specific spectral bands of 450 nm (blue), 560 nm (green), 650 nm (red), 730 nm (red edge) and 840 nm (near-infrared) attached to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Data analysis, using the hand-held spectrometer, followed by pattern recognition using principal component analysis and partial least squares-discriminant analysis, have identified the key distinguishing wavelengths for identification of the 5 orchid types as 400, 410, 420 and 560 nm. The use of remote sensing, using the UAV-MSI, and application of a dedicated spectral index has enabled field identification of the orchids. Finally, object-based image analysis of field gathered photogrammetry imagery, has enabled use of shape, size, and color to identify and distinguish orchid species. The developed data analytic tool, using random forest classification, can be used to identify and characterize wild orchids across multiple sites within their short lifespan with an accuracy of 86%. Any longer-term study would provide invaluable information on the diversity and complexity of orchid habitat, population variation both intra- and inter-site location, as well as the impact of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Mar 2024

Cite this