More and more smartphone apps are being written about plant identification and the public is looking for them so they can use their smartphones and tablets in the field instead of bulky manuals. Two new apps for the iPhone are about tree idenfication, one from the Arbor Day Foundation called What tree is that? (also available to use on their website) and another one called TreeID by MEDL mobile and created by Jason M. Siniscalchi, PhD. Both apps are good but they differ by the types of keys they use.
“What tree is that?” is a dichotomous key (asking a series of questions to narrow down the choice) as seen below. There is a separate glossary with some illustrations as well as illustrations that accompany the key choices.
After the species is keyed down to the final choice the app shows a drawing of the branches with leaves and fruits plus some natural history information. See below for white ash. You can see the full list of trees included in case you think your species may not be in the key. The My Trees tab allows you to choose to post the location of your tree which helps in their creation of a crowd-sourced tree database.
TreeID is a random access key that allows you to use any of the 31 plant characters available about the tree. Below is a what their key looks like. Each character has an illustrated glossary (you click on the question mark) that you can use to see what the character choices look like, a nice feature.
When a tree is identified it shows an infomation-rich page about the tree that includes a range map and photos of the leaf (many with fall color) bark and flowers and/or fruit. It also shows the silhouette of the tree architecture which is handy.
I have not tried these apps in the field to any extent and field testing them will be the key to their usefulness. They look promising and I would recommend getting both of them to use since they approach identification in different ways. If you happen to use them, leave a comment in our comments section about your experience. We look forward to more of these apps, especially of groups like ferns, fern allies, and orchids that are well defined and popular with many people. Dick Mitchell produced a fern key for computers many years ago. Something like that is ripe for turning into an app. For more information on other Apple plant ID apps CLICK HERE for an earlier post – Steve Young