Tree identification in the UK can be tricky – the plant collectors of the Victorian era made sure that every tree that could possibly be grown in the UK, is in the UK! The fact that you have found this site probably means that you have some interest in plants and trees, but being able to identify 100% of trees correctly is a task that very few can do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; not even the world’s leading Arborists can name every tree that is out there.
So what is the answer? Tree identification in the UK can be a case of lugging field guides or remembering to take one of the brilliant Field Studies Council’s charts out with you.
What’s a person to do? A lot of people now carry smartphones with them 24/7 and have access to the entire information that humankind possesses (yet we spend an inordinate amount of time watching videos of cats …) Many companies and charities are working out how they can use this technology to inform people. The Woodland Trust has just released an iPhone App specifically for tree identification in the UK! (The Android app is due to be released later in the summer.) This sort of identification process has been attempted several times before, and I was keen to try it out.
The app claims to be able to identify all the UK’s native trees and many non-native trees that can be found in the UK. Enough with the technical language! What does that actually mean?
Native or Non-Native Tree?
Native trees: this means any species that is in the UK naturally and neither intentionally nor accidentally.
Non-native: this means any species that would not be here if it had not been introduced intentionally or accidentally.
The pull of the combination of all things trees and all things tech were too much of a temptation to resist; I took my iPhone, my 3-year-old daughter, and my technophobe mother to Kew Gardens to try it out!
Ease of use
One of the things I really liked about this app was the lack of jargon and annoying pages to click through that so many app developers love so much. Once you have uploaded it, you are presented with two options: Tree ID, and a great quality A-Z feature. I clicked on Tree ID and handed my phone to my daughter. You don’t need to be able to read to use this app! Without very much guidance at all, she was able to click on the simple descriptive pictures and make a very reasonable attempt at identifying trees. I then handed my phone over to my mother who, similarly, was more than able of using the extremely user-friendly app to ID the trees around her.
Ease of use – 10/10
What stands out about this app to help with tree identification in the UK is that you can use the search function to ID trees regardless of the season. It’s fairly easy to ID a tree when it is displaying all of its identifying features, but what happens if it is winter and the tree is not in leaf? This app will guide you (and it really does feel as if someone is taking you gently by the hand!) to identify trees from looking at its bark, twig or branches, leaf bud, fruit, flower, or leaf or needle. This is a fantastic tool!
Seasonal use – 9/10
Another nice touch with this app is its A-Z guide of UK trees. Although not a practical tool for tree identification, the information is in-depth and includes some interesting information that is not usually found in guides. Did you know: In France and Switzerland, lime trees are a symbol of liberty?
There is also a feature that allows you to save and record your favourites on a map within the app.
Extra features – 9/10
While I am in love with this app (and the Woodland Trust in general), there is one quite major flaw; the app is designed to assist with tree identification in the UK and concentrates on native trees. While this is probably fine in everyday parks and gardens, taking this app to somewhere like Kew Gardens does present issues – there are so many non-natives there that the app makes a lot of errors. As a real plant lover, I want a tree ID app that will identify the obscure and unusual as well as the common trees.
- Very easy to use
- Logical format
- Simple and clear graphics
- Quality A-Z section
- Year round ID
- Uses very little phone memory (usually this type of app is huge!)
- Only really works with UK native tree identification
Overall this is a great app, and I whole-heartedly recommend it; the A-Z is a real plus point and an interesting read. Hopefully, The Woodland Trust will update the app in time to include a wider range of non-native trees.