Three Great Tree-Identification Apps for Your Smart Phone

There are few aspects of life that remain untouched by technology.

Even the ways we interact with the natural world have changed thanks to the technology available at our fingertips.

For example, if you wanted to identify a tree20 years ago, you’d have to break out a field guide or a dichotomous key. But in the year 2017, all you need is your phone.

A variety of different tree-identification apps are now available, each of which help users determine the identification of the trees around them. We discuss a few of the most popular products below.

Virginia Tech Tree ID

If you spend any time researching trees on the internet, you’ve no doubt stumbled across Virginia Tech’s incredible dendrology portal, that includes a wealth of photographs and high-quality information. But they’ve also produced a stellar tree-identification app, so you can access this incredible data from your phone, while you are actually looking at the tree you are trying to identify.

One of the primary “selling” features of the app (which is actually available free of charge right here or here for both iPhone and Android, respectively), is its flexibility. The app features a number of filtering options, which allow the user to narrow down the potential species in question to just those within the user’s area. In fact, users can narrow down the search criteria so much that the app effectively becomes, in the designer’s words, the “Woody Plants of Where You Are Standing.”

Another exciting feature offered by the app is the ability to send tree-identification questions to “Dr. Dendro,” who will help you distinguish between closely related taxa.


LeafSnap is an electronic field guide – actually, a collection of online field guides – that help users to learn about trees. The app includes a lot of basic information about trees, including many high-quality photos of various species; but LeafSnap’s claim to fame is undoubtedly the LeafSnap feature. To use the LeafSnap feature, the user takes a photograph of a tree they wish to have identified. The application then uploads the photo to a central database, processes the image with an algorithm, and provides the user with a species identification.

LeafSnap also has several interactive features, and the information you collect is automatically shared with scientists around the world. This provides them with the chance to study an incredibly large dataset, and understand what is happening among wild populations in nearly real-time.

A diverse array of scientists, researchers and developers are responsible for the work behind LeafSnap, including representatives from Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution. LeafSnap is available at no cost (you can download it here), but unfortunately, it only includes trees of the northeastern United States, and it is only available for Apple-based systems.

Botany Buddy

Botany Buddy is an interactive plant information app that offers helpful information to users. Botany Buddy not only helps users to identify unknown plants and trees with its 1,300-species-strong database of both native species and ornamentals, it also suggests suitable plants and trees for various situations that may confront professional landscapers or homeowners.

Unlike some other apps, Botany Buddy does not require users to be connected to the internet to access their personal dataset, which can be an important feature when you’re out on the trail, miles away from civilization. Botany Buddy is free to download, but it is only available for iPhones and other Apple products. You can download Botany Buddy at the iTunes store or here.