By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties
In the past, I’ve written about various smartphone “apps” of interest to woodland owners (if you missed them, you can read these past articles here). Here is another, released last week just in time for the peak of our spring wildflowers.
The Oregon Wildflowers app helps the user to identify and learn about nearly 1,000 wildflower species found in our state. There are two main ways to use the app. If you think you know the plant’s common name, you can find it in an alphabetical listing and then view photos and a description. Or, to identify an unknown plant, you can narrow it down by choosing the geographic region, habitat type, flower color, leaf traits, and other characteristics to arrive at a few options.
The Oregon Wildflower app is a product of the Oregon Flora Project, which in turn is housed in OSU’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. A portion of the proceeds from the app’s $7.99 purchase price goes to support the Oregon Flora Project.
I tore myself away from my computer screen to test out the app. Tucked behind our Extension office is what most of the year seems like a swampy, degraded site – only to transform every spring into a sea of camas. It’s pretty spectacular, for being wedged between a parking lot and a highway.
I typed in the plant’s main characteristics and the app led me to the right species, but only after I tried calling the flowers blue, not purple (note to user: color is a subjective trait). The app also helped me identify another flower that was new to me: rosy plectritis or sea blush.
Now I’m hooked on botanizing (which I learned is really a verb, even though spell-check tells me otherwise), at least for the moment. Yesterday when visiting with some local landowners to plan a summer tour, we found stream violets and calypso orchids (a.k.a. fairy slippers) in their shady second-growth forest. We didn’t use the app to identify them, but we could have; it works without a cell phone signal.
A couple more days of sunshine are in store for this week. What better time to head out to your favorite forest for some botanizing of your own? And I do not mean to exclude non-smartphone users. There are plenty of old-school tools, a.k.a. BOOKS, out there to help you learn some new faces. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast, by Pojar and MacKinnon, is one of my favorites.
What wildflowers are in bloom where you live right now? Leave a reply to this blog post and let other readers know, if you are so inclined.