Researchers at four universities develop most comprehensive CD to identify North American trees

August 28, 2000

BLACKBURG, Aug. 29, 2000 --A new interactive multimedia tutorial for the identification of woody plants, developed over a six-year period by Virginia Tech in cooperation with tree identification experts at Oregon State University, the Pennsylvania State University, and the University of Georgia, has just been released by Kendall/Hunt Publishing. Woody Plants in North America is a two-CD set split into angiosperms (hardwoods) and gymnosperms (softwoods) and covers both native and ornamental woody plants found across North America.

"We believe it is likely the single largest collection of color photographs for native woody plants found in North America," said John R. Seiler, forestry professor at Virginia Tech.

The main authors, Seiler, John A. Peterson (Virginia Tech), and Edward C. Jensen (Oregon State) are all award winning educators and software developers. Both Seiler and Jensen have won the Society of American Foresters' Carl Alwin Schenck Award for excellence in forestry education. Their software has been tested on college students in controlled studies and shown to significantly increase identification skills.

The software includes a morphology section that illustrates common terms used to describe twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit, bark, and form of woody plants. The main body of the tutorial contains more than 9,500 pictures and full text descriptions of all plant parts for 470 species of woody plants.

Numerous photographs are annotated to highlight the most critical distinguishing features. Multiple pictures of important distinguishing features help users develop a "feel" for normal variation expected in the field. For example, bark is often shown for numerous developmental stages of a tree. Each feature of similar species can also be compared side by side with the most distinguishing features highlighted. Range maps, summary descriptions, site information, and interesting tidbits are also given for each species.

A quiz section allows users to evaluate their progress in identification. Quizzes can be customized by species or plant part, or can be broadly based. For example, students can include only species for which they are currently responsible for in a course.

As new species are learned they can be added to the quiz list. During a quiz, additional hints (pictures) can also be looked at if the identity is unclear on the first image. Users can continue looking through images until they can identify the plant or give up. Misspellings in the botanical name are indicated, and if identified incorrectly, the correct species is indicated. One-page, printable fact sheets for all species in the program can be found at the website: Each fact sheet contains a text description plus several color photographs showing key features. Fact sheets are also linked directly to the USDA Silvics of North America.
To learn more about the software visit the website:

Key Features

* Specifically designed by forestry and educational experts to enhance the learning of woody plant identification and knowledge retention.
* Scientifically tested and shown to increase identification skills.
* The two-CD set (split into angiosperms [hardwoods] and gymnosperms [softwoods]) offers an in-depth look at 451native and introduced woody plants commonly found across North America.
* Nearly 9,000 color photographs of leaves (summer and fall foliage), flowers, fruits, twigs, bark, and form of the plant are included, with key distinguishing features annotated.
* Users can navigate taxonomically, search for a species either by the common or scientific name, or browse through an entire list of species.
* Multiple images of most plant parts are given so users can develop a "feel" for normal field variation.
* For each plant part, similar-looking species can be compared side by side.
* Full text description, range maps, critical distinguishing features, site information, and interesting tidbits are given for each species.
* A self-quizzing section allows users to evaluate their progress in plant identification at their own pace.
* Quizzes can be taken on all plant parts, or users can specify parts such as leaves or fruit.
* Allows users to select species to be included in quizzes so they can practice on only the plants they are familiar with or are responsible for in a course.
* A nomenclature section familiarizes users with the terms used in the identification of plants.

PR CONTACT: Lynn Davis

Virginia Tech

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