There’s always something more to learn about your woodland, whether you’re just getting started in forest management or have been doing it for decades. Using current technology—websites, online tools, and mobile phone apps—you can find great information about your property and everything that lives on it: trees, flowers, foliage, animals and insects. Here are some fun tools we've found to help you enjoy your forest to the fullest.
Get Help Managing Your Woodland
Managing your property is a lot easier when you have access to the right forestry programs, services, and professionals. If your woodland is located in Alabama, California, Florida, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin, the WoodsCamp website is a great place to start.
This free online platform, provided by the American Forest Foundation (AFF), uses mapping data to create a personalized report about your woodland. Just fill out some basic information about your property to get connections to local forestry or wildlife professionals, and information about the opportunities available on the ground in your area.
My Land Plan
Also offered free of charge by the American Forest Foundation, MyLandPlan.org provides easy-to-use online tools that let you map out your woodland, set goals for managing it, and connect with other woodland owners and foresters for valuable tips and assistance. Using My Land Plan, you can document the history of your property, keep a journal about what you’ve done, and set reminders for what you need to do to get the outcomes you want.
Learn More About Your Trees and Plants
Have you ever taken a walk in your woods and come across a tree, a flowering plant, or foliage that you didn’t recognize? These apps and websites will help you get some answers:
LeafSnap Plant Identification App
Developed by the Smithsonian Institution, Columbia University, and the University of Maryland, LeafSnap can identify thousands of plants, flowers, fruits and trees.
Take a photo of a leaf, bark, fruit, or flower of an unknown tree, plant, or shrub, and LeafSnap will provide a list of possible matches. According to the developers, the app can recognize 90% of all known species on earth. Don’t worry if you can’t get reception out in your woods; you can download the plant identification guide and store it on your phone.
Virginia Tech Tree ID
Virginia Tech is known for its dendrology department, and its app offers fact sheets for more than 950 woody plants, and as well as 6,400+ color photos of leaves, flowers, fruit, bark. Let the app access the GPS in your phone and it will show the list of tree species in your area, then further narrow it by having you choose the tree’s attributes.
The Tree Identification Field Guide
This online pocket guide from the Arbor Day Foundation covers the most common trees in the United States, split into separate sections for trees in the Western states and trees in the Eastern/Central part of the country. Answering questions about the type and shape of the leaves will help you find the species you’re looking for.
Shroomify – USA Mushroom Identification App
Select the characteristics of the wild mushroom you’re looking at, and this app will offer suggestions of what it could be, drawing from a database of over 400 common fungi and 1,000 images. It even offers a Top 20 listing for each month, explaining which mushroom species you’re likely to encounter during that time.
This app currently recognizes over 900 types of mushrooms and promises that when you take a picture of a mushroom it will have an identification within seconds. It also analyzes the weather in your area to predict the best times to go mushroom foraging.
Learn About the Birds and the Bees
The Audubon Bird Guide App
Turn your phone into a portable field guide for bird identification. This app not only covers more than 800 species of North American birds but also includes 3,000+ photos, eight hours of audio clips of bird calls, and range maps. Use the app to record the birds you see in your woodlands.
Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Puzzled about a bird that you see? Upload a photo or answer five questions about it, and this app promises to use artificial intelligence to help you identify it. You also get access to more than 15,000 bird songs and calls.
Audubon Society Native Plants Database
Do you have a particular fondness for woodpeckers, thrushes or cardinals? If you’d like to attract more of a certain species to your forest, check out Audubon's Native Plants database. Enter your zip code and you’ll find a list of native plants for the area and the types of birds that they’re likely to attract.
Identify Animals... and Everything Else
This website / app combo, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, offers information about plants and animals in North American and throughout the world. It provides crowdsourced identifications; upload a photo of an unusual plant or forest creature you’ve never seen before, and you can connect with naturalists (both amateur and professional) who can provide some answers. The photos and information you upload also help create a database of where different species can be found.
Seek by iNaturalist
This app uses image recognition to identify the plants and animals all around you. Just point your camera and it will tell you about the flora and fauna in the picture. Geared toward families, it encourages people to get outside to learn more about nature, and even awards badges for observing different types of species and participating in challenges.
(iOS only - about $10 each)
The NWF has a wide range of field guides available for mobile devices, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and spiders, butterflies, birds, mushrooms and trees. These apps don’t offer image recognition, but they do offer thousands of photos and excellent information about various species you might find in your forest.
Animal tracks are another clue to the wild creatures that are sharing your forest. This website, developed by a state mammologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife, can help you identify tracks left by mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles, and even insects.
Picture Insect: Bug Identifier
Upload a photo of the insect you’re curious about and this app will instantly pick out suggestions from more than 1,000 species.
Know of a great technology that we didn’t list? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.