University of Maryland Extension

Gardening Apps - Tree ID

Author: 
Ria Malloy

Published August 2013

Curious but confused about gardening apps? 

We were too! So we decided to give some gardening apps a test drive and share the results with you.

We tried several Tree ID Apps on various devices to identify an oak, a cherry, and black tupelo. They were selected for testing by price (free or very low cost), applicable to the mid-Atlantic region, and we wanted to present you with at least one app per platform. Three of the apps are reviewed below.

Keep in mind ....

  • No one app "does it all" - at least for now!
  • Some apps are more technical than others.
  • It can take several attempts to get the "right" answer.
  • Apps are a fun way to get to learn more about the plants around you.

Leafsnap Columbia University, University of Maryland, Smithsonian Institution. Some features viewable online.
   Available for Free

How it works:

  • Remove a leaf from tree and take photo on a solid white background with device. Can be tricky to do in the field by yourself.
  • App uploads photo and returns list of possible tree species.
  • View details of each tree in the list to narrow the options.
  • May only be able to narrow options to genus level (oak, maple, etc.)

Good features:

  • Results = high quality photos of possible species based on visual recognition software.
  • GEO tagged species appear on map in APP.
  • Excellent photos and descriptions.


Needs work:

  • Not easy to get leaves from tall trees or trees in hard to access areas.
  • Hard to manage leaf on white paper and take photo with device.
  • Search can give many possible species options. 24 different species options returned for each of 3 species we searched.

Bottom Line:

  • Try out the app before venturing out to be sure you have the tools you need.
  • Cut a small branch or take photos of branch, overall tree shape, and bark for later use.
  • Best used with a buddy – you'll need the extra hands!

 

Virginia Tech Tree ID  
Available for free
 Leaf and twig keys online keys under
Tools

 How it works:

  • Touch photos to select from 15 characteristics (tree vs. shrub) to narrow choices.
  • Pinpoints your location with GPS to narrow choices to known local species.
  • Touch screen to select a result.
  • Detailed description and quality images should help ID the plant.

Good features:

  • Don't need to select all 15 characteristics to get good results.
  • Good descriptions and images.

Needs work:

  • Too technical for beginner. 
  • A glossary within the app would make this a better educational tool.
  • Can't easily undo a choice.
  • Can't scroll from one photo to another.

Bottom Line:

  • The more off-season characteristics you know, the better the results.
  • If you already know what bud scale scars and vascular bundle scars are, this is the app for you!

 


What Tree is That?
Arbor Day Foundation.   But why not view the free mobile version on computer, phone, or tablet with data connection or wifi at www.arborday.org/smarttree?
 $4.99 | Free Mobile Website Version or Free Full Online Website Version

How it works:

  • Touch screen to choose 15 characteristics from text descriptions.
  • Result given is color drawing.

Good features:

  • Can easily go backwards to make changes.
  • When you select all 15 characteristics, you get 1 result. If that is not your plant, you have to go back and make changes.
  • Has a glossary of botanical terms.

Needs work:

  • Must select ALL 15 characteristics - can be tricky to select fruit type during flowering season!
  • Text can be confusing.
  • No overall description of species.
  • No photos.

Bottom Line:

  • Use a tree field guide for more information about trees.
  • Need at least a branch, fruit, flowers, etc. to get through key.
  • Best of 3 apps for a beginner.

Do these apps work for you? Do you have favorite gardening apps you’d like us to try? Send an email with your suggestions. mmalloy@umd.edu

Thanks to Suzanne Klick for her assistance!

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