What free/online resources do you use to help ID what you photograph?

For vascular plants in North America:
(Note that some volumes aren’t published yet)

the Biota of North America Program (BONAP) has detailed distribution maps for vascular plants in the contiguous United States: http://bonap.org

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I use a bunch. A partial list is below, I have a lot more I use, but those bookmarks are on another computer. I’m on my work computer so the focus is more on SE Asia than the bookmarks on my personal computers

First off, I have some listed on one of the pages of my old blog (not updated for a long time)



Some of the others that I haven’t added to those lists yet

SE Asian Raptors

Bird sounds (global)

Vietnam birds

Bird feather ID

Various SE Asian Animals (I mainly use it for Herps)

Butterflies in Indo-China

Butterflies in Vietnam and Laos

Sphingidae of the Eastern Palaearctic (and part of East Asia)

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Vietnam

Spider eye arrangements

Spiders of Europe

Spiders of Europe and Greenland

Spiders of Southeast Asia

Ants of Asia and Europe

Snakes of Europe


Vietnam creatures

Rare and Protected creatures of Vietnam

Fish of Ha Long Bay

Snails of Vietnam

Japanese oaks (more art than ID, but works well for ID)

Fagaceae of Asia

Phyto images

Plants of the World

Ferns and Lycopods (global)

Orchids (global)

Invasive and Naturalized Plants of SE Asia

Invasive Species (global)

Invasive Species (global)

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I use Facebook groups specific to my area for birds, insects, plants, etc. here in NE Ohio. But, I rely on people I know in those groups for help with an ID. There are several naturalists and non-naturalists who are very knowledgeable in my area who do Facebook. I also stop by the local park nature centers where I can often show someone a photo face to face or describe what I have seen in person. People are your best resource.

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The reference to BHL is very important and I hope that resource continues growing. Yet I use it mostly to check original descriptions as taxonomy has been changing so fast in the past 20 years at least for the (formerly known as) Opisthobranchia.

many have been previously mentioned over at: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/current-or-general-favorite-field-guides/656. so make sure you take a look the online resources mentioned there.

also there are some video resources mentioned here: https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/video-taxon-identification-resources-for-plants/25108.

a lot of the FNA stuff in efloras.org has been replicated and improved over at http://floranorthamerica.org/

BONAP is good for viewing multiple species in the same genus on the same page, but often i compare that with what FNA and USDA show, too. they sometimes disagree, or BONAP sometimes doesn’t have a particular plant.

if you’re just trying to identify bird sounds, BirdNET is another option for this.

i used this just yesterday to find a Commelinid with tiny purple flowers in my area that i had seen but not taken a photo of (Murdannia nudiflora).

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When I’m stuck (generally an insect from a group I’m not familiar with) I make a quick try with Google Lens, which has a totaly different approach to subject identification. If my photo is on the computer, I grab a quick snapshot of my screen with the cell phone and I proceed from there. I have sometimes been lucky with good hints or even species-level ID while iNaturalist could not figure out the ID.


My butterfly reference book is Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest by Robert Michael Pyle and Caitlin C. LaBar. Admittedly it would not be very useful to you, since you don’t live in my region (or even in the US), but I recommend it to anyone who does.

I will highly ‘second’ this list for anyone in Minnesota (MN) or surrounding areas.

I use https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info/ so often I donated to it last year. It gives very specific info on what to look for while identifying plants and how to differentiate between plants that look similar. Caveats are:

  • they don’t always use the same common name as iNat so search by Latin name
  • they only deal with MN so if they might caution that X plant looks similar to Y plant but another state might have a plant Z that looks similar that they’re not mentioning.
  • they don’t have some newer invasive plants and the list of counties where certain species are found is not as accurate as it could be if they were 100% on top of things. But I wouldn’t expect them to be 100% on top of things so that’s not a ‘ding’ against them, in my mind.

Similarly, https://wisconsinbutterflies.org/ has really nice details about what to look for and how to differentiate between similar species. They also have a list of what butterflies are being found by observers by date and county that can be useful for anyone in Wisconsin or adjoining areas of nearby states. As mentioned on csledge’s journal post, this site also deals with tiger beetles and robber flies.

I got this link from one of my iNat identifiers. I haven’t used it and I’m not sure how helpful it would be for identifying. But it’s an interesting site so I’ll leave it here:

Plants of Oklahoma; Plant ID in 3D; Interactive Photo Gallery
Grasses | Forbs/Broadleaves | Legumes | Woodies

I don’t think anyone has mentioned Diptera.info yet, an international website devoted to flies, including a huge gallery of named photos and an identification service.


This nature guide is a very great help to me as a layperson, this site guides me systematically, including through “interactive system support”.

California plants: Jepson Interchange, https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/interchange/ – links to photos, specimen records, maps, terse descriptions, dichotomous keys.

Oregon plants: Oregon Flora project, https://oregonflora.org/ Links to maps, photos, identification information, gardening info

Pacific Northwest plants: Consortium of Pacific Northwest Herbaria, https://www.pnwherbaria.org/ Maps, photos of herbarium specimens.

Artemisia in western North America: Pocket Guide to Sagebrush by Leila M. Schultz, https://works.bepress.com/leila_shultz/4/

Flora of North America is a series of 33 books covering all the vascular plants and bryophytes of North America north of Mexico. It is also available on-line. Just google the taxon of interest + FNA to find them. It has highly technical descriptions and dichotomous keys. For most plant groups, only representative species are illustrated, but virtually all grasses are shown and there’s at least a perigynium drawing for all Cyperaceae.

Flora of China is also on-line.