Get Appy! Nature Guides for Your Mobile Devices

Ashley Long, Afton, William  |  1/17/2019 4:14:08 PM

Did you know that interacting with nature can have positive effects on our physical, cognitive and emotional well-being? These effects include:

  • Reduced blood pressure and mortality from respiratory disease and other long-term illnesses.
  • Improved academic performance, ability to perform tasks and productivity.
  • Increased self-esteem, improved mood, and reduced anger, frustration and anxiety.

Interacting with nature can also facilitate social interactions, contribute to reduced rates of crime and violence, and provide inspiration for creative pursuits.

Given all these benefits and the personal enjoyment people gain from their interactions with nature, it’s no wonder that more than one-third of Americans participate in some form of nature-based recreational activities each year, including hunting, fishing, birdwatching, photography, hiking and gardening, among many others.

If you are looking to join the more than 103 million Americans who interact with nature each year, or if you are searching for new reference materials, we’ve compiled a list of smartphone and mobile device applications to help you locate and identify flora and fauna in your backyards, neighborhoods, urban greenspaces, and any other natural areas you decide to explore.

Apps for Plant and Fungi Identification

  • Audubon Wildflowers for Android and iOS. $3.99 — Maps, botanical information and color photos to assist with wildflower identification. Also allows you to add your own photos and store lists of wildflower sightings.
  • Botany Buddy for iOS. Free — Helps users identify unknown plants and trees from a database with more than 1,300 species of natives and ornamentals.
  • BeeSmart Pollinator Garden for Android and iOS. Free — Regionally specific lists to help you select plants for pollinators in your area based on the ecological attributes associated with your ZIP code. Includes nearly 1,000 pollinator-friendly perennials, annual, trees, shrubs and vines.
  • Cactus Plant Encyclopedia for iOS. $1.99 — Provides detailed information for over 300 types of cactus.
  • Florafolio for iOS. $3.99 — Guide for wild and garden plants found in the northeastern United States.
  • FlowerChecker for Android and iOS. 99 cents — Take a picture of an unknown plant and send it to a team of experts who will identify it for you.
  • Flower Pedia for iOS. Free to $4.99 — Flower encyclopedia with thousands of photos and basic flower information.
  • Garden Answers Plant Identification for Android and iOS. Free plus $2 fee for some functions —Identification guide for more than 20,000 plants, information on pests and diseases, and advice from gardening experts.
  • LeafSnap for iOS. Free — Uses visual recognition software to help identify tree species from photographs.
  • MyNature Tree Guide for Android and iOS. $6.99 — Comprehensive field guide for tree identification. Ability to identify over 190 trees using leaf or needle characteristics.
  • PictureThis for Android and iOS. Free — Identifies plants and flowers from their pictures.
  • PlantNet for Android and iOS. Free — Social networks for tree lovers and a tool to identify plants by country.
  • Purdue Tree Doctor App Suite for Android and iOS (includes separate apps for trees, perennial flowers, annuals, tomatoes and turf). $1.99 — Developed to help people identify and manage plant issues caused by insects and disease.
  • Roger’s Mushrooms for Android and iOS. $4.99 — Comprehensive identification tool for over 1,650 species of fungi, toadstools, field mushrooms, truffles, puffballs and brackets.
  • Seek for iOS. Free — Upload a photo of an insect, bird, plant, reptile, amphibian or mammal to the app, and it will use image recognition to try to match it to one of 30,000 species in its database.
  • TreeBook for Android and iOS. Free; Pro option $2.99 — Tree identification and descriptions.
  • Virginia Tech Tree Identification for Android and iOS. Free — Fact sheets for more than 950 woody plants from all over North America with in-depth descriptions, range maps, and images.

Apps for Wildlife Identification

  • Audubon Guides (multiple guides, including Birds, Butterflies, Fishes, Insects and Spiders, Mammals, Owls, Reptiles and Amphibians) for Android, iOS, and HP TouchPad. Pricing varies — Mobile identification guides with more than 8,000 photos, sounds, range maps and in-depth descriptions.
  • BirdsEye Bird Guide for Android and iOS. Free and paid versions — Identification guide with photographs and descriptions.
  • Forest Insect Pests in North America for Android and iOS. Free — Photos to help foresters, landscapers, and others working with trees recognize some of the common pest insects affecting trees in North America. Also details pests’ life cycles and how they damage trees.
  • iBird Pro for Android and iOS. $19.95 — Comprehensive identification, behavior, habitat and ecology information with hand-drawn illustrations, professional photographs, range maps and calls for 940 North American and Hawaiian bird species.
  • Merlin Bird ID for Android and iOS. Free — Bird identification help for more than 3,000 North, Central, and South American, and European birds.
  • MyNature Tracks for Android and iOS. $6.99 — Comprehensive field guide to animal identification using tracks, scat and sign with photos, sound files, range maps and more.
  • National Geographic Birds: Field Guide to North America for iOS. $9.99 — More than 995 species and 3,000 illustrations of birds in North America. Includes range maps, search/sort/filter functionality and quizzes to test your knowledge.
  • Peterson Birds of North America for Android and iOS. Free — Bird identification resource that includes information from eight Peterson field guide books. Includes more than 800 species, quick-find index, illustrations, sounds and more.
  • Scat and Tracks of North America for Android and iOS. $6.99 — Field guide to signs of nearly 150 wildlife species in North America.
  • Sibley eGuide to the Birds of North America for Android and iOS. Free and paid versions — Detailed maps, images, sound recordings, descriptions and more.

Apps to Find Parks and Trails

  • AllStays Camp and RV for iOS. $9.99 — Comprehensive guide for places and services that you can use with or without internet. Includes information for tents, RV resorts, parking lots, fuel, rest areas, repairs, tunnels and inclines. Cell service required to utilize GPS-enabled content.
  • AllTrails for Android and iOS. Free with in-app purchases. Collection of over 50,000 detailed, hand-curated trail maps with filters to identify by length, rating and difficulty level. Record your pace, distance, elevation, and max speed and share your adventures with friends and family using the GPS activity tracker.
  • BackCountry Navigator Pro for Android. $11.99 with add-on purchase options — Plan and navigate using offline topo maps and aerial photography or turn your mobile device into a handheld GPS. Useful for a variety of activities, including hiking, geocaching, hunting, fishing, camping and exploring trails.
  • Backpacker GPS Trails Lite for Android and Apple. Free with paid upgrade to pro version — Locate trails; use a digital compass to follow bearings or go to waypoints on a trail; calculate calories, speed, distance and elevation; and share trips on social media.
  • Gaia GPS for Android and iOS. Free to $39.99 per year — Find trails, plan routes, scout hunting units and record/share mapping data.
  • Map My Hike for Android and iOS. Free with in-app purchases and premium subscription options — Syncs with other health apps to track pace, distance, calorie burn, hiking boot or shoe mileage and more using GPS technology. Includes driving directions to the trail head and filers for length, rating and difficulty level.
  • Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder for Android and iOS. Free — Guide to national, state and local parks with information about national forests, wildlife refuges and more. Also uses GPS to search for the park nearest you with the activities in which you’d like to participate.
  • Topo GPS for Android and iOS. $2.99 with in-app purchases — Turn your mobile devices into a full-featured GPS with topographic maps, route recording and planning, waypoints, and extensions for other counties. Ideal for hiking, biking, horse riding, kayaking, geocaching, scouting and others.
  • Trailhead by The North Face for iOS. Free — Enables users to search content by activity type and distance, proximity and user ratings. Routes are pulled from EveryTrail.com, and app allows you to track your trip with a real-time interactive map via GPS.
  • Trails for iOS. Free with in-app purchases — Topographic maps and route recording app that works with GPS or without an active internet connection. App does not require logins of any kind or uploading any personal data to any server.

Apps to Record Nature Observations (Citizen Science)

Use any of these citizen science apps to join millions of people around the world who volunteer to collect and share data for nature-based monitoring projects!

  • Bumble Bee Watch for Android and iOS. Free — Citizen science project for tracking of North America’s bumblebees to enhance their conservation.
  • Dragonfly ID for Android and iOS. Free — Database of sightings, submissions, maps, crowd-sourced text, images and more for dragonflies in North America.
  • eBird for Android and iOS. Free — Record field observations, including photos, age/sex information and more. Share lists and contribute to a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. Data are used to document bird distributions, abundance, habitat use and trends through checklist data collected within a simple, scientific framework.
  • iNaturalist for Android and iOS. Free — Connect with a community of over 400,000 scientists and naturalists to learn more about nature while recording and sharing your observations.
  • WildObs Observer for Android and iOS. Free — Report your wildlife sightings and identify species. Your observations will show up the National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Watch website.

Availability and pricing options current as of November 7, 2018.

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