This quarter we review a few favorites, ranging from free soil software that will use the GPS and indicate the structure and content of what’s underneath your feet to some of the horticulture reference texts that have been made available online. These are just a taste of what is out there. Many other guides – not included here – have been put together by state extension services, regional ISA branches and other groups concentrating reference materials to specific areas. Hotlinks are provided below, as the App Store’s search engine will often frustrate even diligent searchers.


Screen Shot 2014-11-19 at 11.06.25 AMSoilWeb

This app uses USGS, USDA and NRCS data to do something that would at first seem impossible: tell you precisely the soil type of where you’re standing. It will show you mixes of various types, the known layering, and allow you to dig down and explore the nature of that soil type. Not only will it indicate suitability for tree species, but also hydraulic and erosion ratings; geomorphology and chemical composition. The forester clients we have are often surprised by how accurate it is, and how detailed the mapping data appears to be.



Tree care workers don’t often need to consult an identification book, but one can be handy to have to show others. TreeID uses a binary key method of identifying species and has one of the most complete directories of tree species. Other tree identifying apps tend to have a fairly limited number. A close second to this app is TreeBook, which has better graphics, but fewer species. It also uses the binary key method.



Leafsnap is fun, not terribly useful, but one of the most gee-whiz apps available to help tree care people interest kids and other people in what they’re doing. The premise of Leafsnap is that you can take a picture of a leaf, and it will identify the tree for you. It actually works about three quarters of the time – largely dependent on how well you can take a picture of the leaf on a white background.



Dirr’s is in an app, but it’s pricey relative to the free apps ($14.95). In general, you’ll find that reference applications that started off as books are pricier, as it appears the publishers are not willing to reduce the revenue per copy. References that start off as apps are more often free or just a couple dollars. But, then, Dirr’s is Dirr’s.