Is That Edible? The Best Books and Apps for Learning Wild Plant Identification

Wildcrafting (or foraging) is a valuable survival skill. You can find food, create medicines and more.

But you’ve got to get really, really good at identifying wild plants. So whether you’re a “there’s an app for that!” type person, or one who prefers an old-school book that doesn’t need it’s battery charged… here’s a few great places to start!

Books for Wild Plant Identification

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification” by Thomas J. Elpel

This highly acclaimed guide introduces readers to the patterns method, a systematic approach to identifying plants based on key characteristics such as leaf shape, arrangement, and venation.

With clear illustrations and concise explanations, this book offers a solid foundation for understanding plant families and species.
Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide” by Lawrence Newcomb:

A beloved classic among naturalists, this field guide simplifies plant identification by organizing species into easily recognizable groups based on their visual characteristics.

Featuring detailed illustrations and straightforward keys, this guide is perfect for beginners and experienced botanists alike.
The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants” by Samuel Thayer

For those interested in wild edibles, this comprehensive guide offers invaluable insights into identifying, harvesting, and preparing a variety of wild plants for culinary use.

With detailed descriptions, photographs, and harvesting tips, this book is a must-have for aspiring foragers.
Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America” (Peterson Field Guides)

This user-friendly field guide covers over 400 edible wild plants found in eastern and central North America, making it an essential resource for foragers in the region.

Featuring full-color photographs and detailed descriptions, this guide helps readers confidently identify and harvest wild edibles.
Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 120 Wild Herbs for Health and Wellness” by Scott Kloos

Specifically tailored to the Pacific Northwest region, this guidebook focuses on identifying and utilizing medicinal plants native to the area.

With practical advice on ethical harvesting and sustainable wildcrafting practices, this book is an invaluable resource for herbalists and nature enthusiasts alike.

Apps for Wild Plant Identification

  1. iNaturalist: This popular citizen science app allows users to upload photos of plants and other organisms for crowdsourced identification by a community of experts. With its user-friendly interface and extensive database, iNaturalist is a powerful tool for learning about and contributing to biodiversity research.
  2. PlantSnap: With its advanced image recognition technology, PlantSnap helps users identify plants by simply taking a photo with their smartphone. Featuring a vast database of plant species from around the world, this app is perfect for on-the-go plant identification in the field.
  3. Seek by iNaturalist: Designed with families and educators in mind, Seek is a fun and educational app that encourages users to explore the natural world and learn about the plants and animals they encounter. By using image recognition technology, Seek provides instant feedback on plant identification, making it a great tool for outdoor adventures with children.
  4. Flora Incognita: Developed by botanists and ecologists, Flora Incognita is an AI-powered app that helps users identify plants based on photographs of their leaves, flowers, or fruits. With its growing database of plant species and detailed identification results, this app is a valuable resource for botany enthusiasts and conservationists.
  5. PictureThis – Plant Identifier: PictureThis uses artificial intelligence to identify plants from photos and provides users with detailed information about each species, including its common and scientific names, habitat, and growing tips. With its user-friendly interface and extensive plant database, PictureThis is a handy tool for plant enthusiasts of all levels.

Happy Exploring!

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