FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A group of Colorado State University faculty and Extension specialists have created a free shrub and tree identification mobile app called CO Woody Plants. With the launch of the app, Colorado’s wide-range of shrubs, trees, cacti and woody plants are easier to identify than ever.
Teller County Extension Director Mark J. Platten came up with the original idea for the app after noticing how often he would receive phone calls to his office with a similar question, “What kind of shrub/tree is this?”
After searching for a resource that he could send curious Coloradans to no avail, Platten decided to take matters into his own hands.
Working alongside Platten were Logan County Extension Director Brian Kailey, Horticulture and Natural Resources Agent Susan Carter, Boulder County Horticulture Agent Deryn Davidson, and Tri River Area Horticulture Agent Deryn Davidson.
The team started with a series of YouTube videos, which were released three years ago with the aim to help citizens identify their native conifers. After sharing the video resources with community members, the team continued looking for additional solutions that could allow people to search for a plant based on characteristics. They landed on the idea for a mobile app and knew that further collaboration would be needed to get the idea off the ground.
Working together with CSU Extension, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and Warner College of Natural Resources, Platten and the team identified CSU Research Software Facility Director Kevin Brown who would be able to incorporate the various features needed to make identifying plants quick and easy. Two years later, the CO Woody Plants app was launched.
The core developers included Kailey, Megan Matonis of the Colorado State Forest Service, Extension Native Plant Master Program Director Barbara Fahey, and Michael Menefee, the environmental review coordinator at the Colorado National Heritage Program.
CO Woody Plants, developed by CSU faculty and Extension specialists, allows users to help identify trees, shrubs, and woody plants.
Feature of the app
In addition to a comprehensive library of plant knowledge, the CO Woody Plants app features an innovative search platform that allows the user to search by plant characteristics or name as well as a favorites section to flag plant data that is most relevant.
One of Platten’s favorite features of the app is the ability to download plant data to allow searchability in offline locations without cellular connection. The offline data feature was a critical component of the app.
“The app is a great tool for someone hiking through the forest who wants to know what woody plant they’ve come across, even when there isn’t reception,” Platten said. “It will enhance the user’s knowledge of the woody plant species around their property or on their favorite trail, which inevitably leads to them sharing their newfound knowledge with others.”
“The app is a great tool for someone hiking through the forest who wants to know what woody plant they’ve come across, even when there isn’t reception”
— Mark J. Platten, Teller County Extension director
Education in your palm
The plant “characteristics” screen uses visual icons to guide the user through a series of choices to narrow down the possible plants. Once the choices are identified, the user clicks on the results and can browse through photos and descriptions, including a map of which counties each plant is known to be present.
These features open up a world of possibility for the app, including being a handy tool for educators. “The app is also designed for the natural resource professional who may know which plant family they are dealing with but might not recognize the specific species,” Platten said. “Since the app is so flexible, it can be used for educating in the field in programs like Extension’s Native Plant Master program and beyond.”
— Brit Heiring, Colorado State University
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