This Free App Helps You Identify the Plants and Animals Around You

CC BY 2.0. Larry Lamsa

Put a natural history encyclopedia in your pocket with the free (and ad-free) Lookup Life app.

The next time you say "I wonder what that plant is?" you might not have to go too far to find out, because a new app from the makers of ZipcodeZoo will give you the tools to help identify thousands of plants and animals, using your location and the appearance of the species in question.

I'm a bit of a nature nerd, and I love to know more about the plants and animals I see. The more I know about the natural world, the more nature blows my mind, and my kids are big enablers of that tendency, because they're always eager to learn the names and habits of the flora and fauna we come across. And while we've got guide books galore at home, we are often without them when on a walkabout, which means we've got to remember what we saw until we get our hands on the guide books.If you're in the same boat, and you already use your smartphone for just about everything else when you're on the go, the new Lookup Life app could help you identify the animals and plants right when you see them, because it allows you to search tens of thousands of species by their appearance and habitat. The app serves as the mobile search tool for the ZipcodeZoo database, which features a huge amount of information about the natural world, including 800,000 photographs, 160,000 sound clips, 50,000 videos, and more than 3 million maps, covering describing some 3.2 million species and infraspecies.

The Lookup Life app allows you to search for plants or animals by a variety of attributes, ranging from the golocation to the appearance to the behavior or habitat, and once the species is identified, ZipcodeZoo then offers access to quite a bit more resources about it, and claims to include "more natural history information than you can find in any other source." The app is free for iOS, Android, and Windows phones, completely free of any ads or other distracting extras, and includes a "Life List" for keeping track of the various species you've observed.

Among the app's features are the ability to search by proximity (which narrows down the possibilities to those most likely to be found nearby), by physical appearance (leaf morphology, coloration, size), by characteristics (flight patterns, stage of life, habitat), or by sounds (bird calls and songs). According to Lookup Life, the app covers 266,490 plants (of the 1,4 million in the ZipcodeZoo database), 4,753 birds (out of a total of 58,520), and 2,308 different butterflies and moths (of 271,314), as well as a large number of other animals.

Lookup Life is also available on the web, and could be an excellent resource for budding naturalists, homeschoolers, and nature nerds in general, so it may be worth bookmarking (as is ZipcodeZoo).