While farmers are often trying to figure out what kind of weed or disease they’re dealing with in a crop, owning property means taking care of other types of plants, too. And knowing which trees and shrubs you have on hand could make management easier. Colorado State University is stepping up with a new app-based approach to identify plants and trees.
The app, called CO Woody Plants, includes Colorado’s wide range of shrubs, trees, cacti and woody plants, and it makes them easier to identify.
The idea came from Mark Platten, Teller County Extension director, after he noticed the number of calls he was getting with the same question: “What kind of tree or shrub is this?” A search of resources where he could send the curious Coloradans turned up few choices, so he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Platten teamed up with Brian Kailey, Logan County Extension director; Susan Carter, Boulder County horticulture agent; and Dervyn Davidson, Tri-River Area horticulture agent. The team started with a series of YouTube videos released three years ago with information to help identify native conifers. The work didn’t end there, eventually deciding a smart phone app would be a useful tool.
Working with Colorado State University Extension, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program and Warner College of Natural Resources, the team linked up with Kevin Brown, CSU research software facility director, who would be able to incorporate the various features needed to make identifying plants easier. Two years later, the app was launched.
The core developers included Kailey; Megan Matonis, Colorado State Forest Service; Barbara Fahey, Extension Native Plant Master Program director; and Michael Menefee, environmental review coordinator at the Colorado National Heritage Program.
App features outlined
Built on a comprehensive library of plant knowledge, the app has a search platform that allows the user to search by plant characteristics or name, as well as a favorites section to flag plant data that are most relevant.
A key feature of the app is the ability to download plant data to allow searchability offline, so the app works when you have no cell service. Offline data access was a key component the app developers wanted.
The “plant characteristics” screen uses visual icons to guide the user through a series of choices to narrow possible plants. Once identified, the user clicks on the results and can browse the photos and descriptions, including a map of the counties in which each plant is known to be present.
The app also opens up education possibilities. Platten notes a “natural resource professional who may know which plant family they are dealing with, but might note recognize a specific species” could use the app to narrow down identification.
Want to better identify the woody plants and other items on your Colorado operation? Visit the iOS app store or Google Play and search “CO Woody Plants.” And while it’s built for Colorado, it may help with plants in other parts of the West.