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A broom shrub in flower Cytisus scoparius2.jpg
A broom shrub in flower
A rhododendron shrubbery in Sheringham Park Sheringham Park 1.JPG
A rhododendron shrubbery in Sheringham Park

A shrub (often also called a bush) is a small-to-medium-sized perennial woody plant. Unlike herbaceous plants, shrubs have persistent woody stems above the ground. Shrubs can be either deciduous or evergreen. They are distinguished from trees by their multiple stems and shorter height, less than 6–10 m (20–33 ft) tall. [1] [2] Small shrubs, less than 2 m (6.6 ft) tall are sometimes termed as subshrubs. Many botanical groups have species that are shrubs, and others that are trees and herbaceous plants instead.


Some definitions state that a shrub is less than 6 m (20 ft) and tree is over 6 m. Others use 10 m (33 ft) as the cut-off point for classification. [2] Many species of tree may not reach this mature height because of hostile less than ideal growing conditions, and resemble a shrub-sized plant. However such species have the potential to grow taller under the ideal growing conditions for that plant. In terms of longevity, most shrubs fit in a class between perennials and trees; some may only last about five years even in good conditions, others, usually the larger and more woody ones, may live to 70 or more, but on average they last 7–10 years. [3]

Shrubland is the natural landscape dominated by various shrubs; there are many distinct types around the world, including fynbos, maquis, shrub-steppe, shrub swamp and moorland. In gardens and parks, an area largely dedicated to shrubs (now somewhat less fashionable than a century ago) is called a shrubbery, shrub border or shrub garden. There are many garden cultivars of shrubs, bred for flowering, for example rhododendrons, and sometimes even leaf colour or shape.

Compared to trees and herbaceous plants, perhaps a relatively small number of shrubs have agricultural or commercial uses. Apart from the several berry-bearing species (using the culinary rather than botanical definition), few are eaten directly, and they are generally too small for much timber use unlike trees. [4] Those that are used include several perfumed species such as lavender and rose, and a wide range of plants with medicinal uses. Tea and coffee are on the tree-shrub boundary; [5] they are normally harvested from shrub-sized plants, but these would be large enough to become small trees if left to grow instead.


Shrubs are perennial woody plants, and therefore have persistent woody stems above ground (compare with succulent stems of herbaceous plants). [2] Usually shrubs are distinguished from trees by their height and multiple stems. Some shrubs are deciduous (e.g. hawthorn) and others evergreen (e.g. holly). [2] Ancient Greek philosopher Theophrastus divided the plant world into trees, shrubs and herbs. [6]

Small, low shrubs, generally less than 2 m (6.6 ft) tall, such as lavender, periwinkle and most small garden varieties of rose, are often termed as subshrubs. [7] [8]

Most definitions characterize shrubs as possessing multiple stems with no main trunk below. [2] This is because the stems have branched below ground level. There are exceptions to this, with some shrubs having main trunks, but these tend to be very short and divide into multiple stems close to ground level without a reasonable length beforehand. Many trees can grow in multiple stemmed forms also while being tall enough to be trees, such as oak or ash. [2]

Use in gardens and parks

An area of cultivated shrubs in a park or a garden is known as a shrubbery. [9] When clipped as topiary, suitable species or varieties of shrubs develop dense foliage and many small leafy branches growing close together. [10] Many shrubs respond well to renewal pruning, in which hard cutting back to a "stool", removes everything but vital parts of the plant, resulting in long new stems known as "canes". [11] Other shrubs respond better to selective pruning to dead or unhealthy, or otherwise unattractive parts to reveal their structure and character. [12]

Shrubs in common garden practice are generally considered broad-leaved plants, though some smaller conifers such as mountain pine and common juniper are also shrubby in structure. Species that grow into a shrubby habit may be either deciduous or evergreen. [13]

Botanical structure

Shrub vegetation (with some cactus) in Webb County, Texas. Scrub brush vegetation in south TX IMG 6069.JPG
Shrub vegetation (with some cactus) in Webb County, Texas.
Blackthorn shrub (Prunus spinosa) in the Vogelsberg Schlehenbusch.jpg
Blackthorn shrub (Prunus spinosa) in the Vogelsberg
Hydrangea macrophylla Hortensie, blau.jpg
Hydrangea macrophylla
Winter-flowering Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) Zaubernuss.jpg
Winter-flowering Witch-hazel (Hamamelis)
Senecio angulatus, a scrambling shrub by the sea (yellow-flowered). Senecio angulatus by the coast.jpg
Senecio angulatus , a scrambling shrub by the sea (yellow-flowered).

In botany and ecology, a shrub is more specifically used to describe the particular physical canopy structure or plant life-form of woody plants which are less than 8 metres (26 ft) high and usually multiple stems arising at or near the surface of the ground. For example, a descriptive system widely adopted in Australia is based on structural characteristics based on life-form, plus the height and amount of foliage cover of the tallest layer or dominant species. [14]

For shrubs that are 2–8 metres (6.6–26.2 ft) high the following structural forms are categorized:

For shrubs less than 2 metres (6.6 ft) high the following structural forms are categorized:

List of shrubs

Those marked with * can also develop into tree form if in ideal conditions.


Related Research Articles

Deciduous Trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally

In the fields of horticulture and botany, the term deciduous means "falling off at maturity" and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, usually in the autumn; to the shedding of petals, after flowering; and to the shedding of ripe fruit. The antonym of deciduous in the botanical sense is evergreen.

Groundcover Plant with low spreading growth

Groundcover or ground cover is any plant that grows over an area of ground. Groundcover provides protection of the topsoil from erosion and drought.

Ornamental plant Plant that is grown for decorative purposes

Ornamental plants or garden plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects. Many if not most are flowering plants, and garden varieties tend to be specially bred cultivars that improve on the original species in qualities such as colour, shape, scent and long-lasting blooms. There are many examples of fine ornamental plants that can provide height, privacy, and beauty for any garden. These ornamental perennial plants have seeds that allow them to reproduce. One of the beauties of ornamental grasses is that they are very versatile and low maintenance. All the main types of plant have many ornamental varieties: trees, shrubs, aquatic plants, perennial and annual plants. Non-botanical classifications include houseplants, bedding plants, plants for cut flowers and foliage plants. The cultivation of ornamental plants comes under floriculture and tree nurseries, which is a major branch of horticulture.

<i>Campsis radicans</i> Species of vine

Campsis radicans, the trumpet vine, yellow trumpet vine, or trumpet creeper, is a species of flowering plant in the family Bignoniaceae, native to the eastern United States, and naturalized elsewhere. Growing to 10 m (33 ft), it is a vigorous, deciduous woody vine, notable for its showy trumpet-shaped flowers. It inhabits woodlands and riverbanks, and is also a popular garden subject.

Pruning Selective removal of parts of a plant

Pruning is a horticultural, arboricultural and silvicultural practice involving the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots.

Perennial plant Plant that lives for more than two years

A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annuals and biennials. The term is also widely used to distinguish plants with little or no woody growth from trees and shrubs, which are also technically perennials.

Subshrub Short woody plant

A subshrub or dwarf shrub is a short shrub, and is a woody plant. Prostrate shrub is a related term. "Subshrub" is often used interchangeably with "bush".

<i>Dasiphora fruticosa</i> Species of flowering plant in the rose family Rosaceae

Dasiphora fruticosa is a species of hardy deciduous flowering shrub in the family Rosaceae, native to the cool temperate and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere, often growing at high altitudes in mountains. Dasiphora fruticosa is still widely referenced in the horticultural literature under its synonym Potentilla fruticosa. Common names include shrubby cinquefoil, golden hardhack, bush cinquefoil, shrubby five-finger, widdy, and kuril tea.

Shrubland Vegetation dominated by shrubs

Shrubland, scrubland, scrub, brush, or bush is a plant community characterized by vegetation dominated by shrubs, often also including grasses, herbs, and geophytes. Shrubland may either occur naturally or be the result of human activity. It may be the mature vegetation type in a particular region and remain stable over time, or a transitional community that occurs temporarily as the result of a disturbance, such as fire. A stable state may be maintained by regular natural disturbance such as fire or browsing. Shrubland may be unsuitable for human habitation because of the danger of fire. The term was coined in 1903.

<i>Stewartia pseudocamellia</i> Species of flowering plant

Stewartia pseudocamellia, also known as Korean stewartia, Japanese stewartia, or deciduous camellia, is a species of flowering plant in the family Theaceae, native to Japan and Korea.

Habit (biology)

Habit, equivalent to habitus in some applications in biology, refers variously to aspects of behaviour or structure, as follows:

Woody plant Plant that produces wood and has a hard stem

A woody plant is a plant that produces wood as its structural tissue and thus has a hard stem. In cold climates, woody plants further survive winter or dry season above ground, as opposite to herbaceous plants that die back to the ground until spring.

<i>Salvia gesneriflora</i> Species of shrub

Salvia gesneriflora is a herbaceous perennial plant or subshrub native to mountainous provinces of the Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico, growing at 7,500–10,000 ft (2,300–3,000 m) elevation. The long tubular flowers of this salvia resemble Gesneria flowers. It is a popular ornamental plant.

<i>Buddleja alternifolia</i> Species of plant

Buddleja alternifolia, known as alternate-leaved butterfly-bush, is a species of flowering plant in the figwort family, which is endemic to Gansu, China. A substantial deciduous shrub growing to 4 metres (13 ft) tall and wide, it bears grey-green leaves and graceful pendent racemes of scented lilac flowers in summer.

Mallee Woodlands and Shrublands

Mallee Woodlands and Shrublands is one of 32 Major Vegetation Groups defined by the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy.

Herb Plant used for food, medicine or perfume

In general use, herbs are a widely distributed and widespread group of plants, excluding vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients, with savory or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring and garnishing food, for medicinal purposes, or for fragrances. Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices. Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant, while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.

Zanthoxylum parvum, known as Shinners' tickletongue and small prickly-ash, is a species of shrub in the family Rutaceae. It is native to the mountains of Trans-Pecos Texas in Brewster and Jeff Davis counties. Zanthoxylum parvum is a rare and poorly understood plant. It is sometimes considered a synonym of Zanthoxylum americanum.

<i>Hakea tephrosperma</i> Species of plant

Hakea tephrosperma commonly known as hooked needlewood, is a shrub or small tree species in the family Proteaceae. It has cream flowers, needle-shaped leaves and is one of the taller species adaptable for dry to temperate locations.

<i>Rhamnus alaternus</i> Species of flowering plant

Rhamnus alaternus is a species of flowering plant in the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae, known by the common names Italian buckthorn or Mediterranean buckthorn. It is a hardy medium-sized evergreen shrub with fragrant flowers.

<i>Allocasuarina striata</i> Species of plant

Allocasuarina striata, commonly known as the small bull oak, stalked oak-bush or the tall oak-bush, is a shrub of the genus Allocasuarina native to South Australia.


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  4. Rosewood does not come from roses.
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  12. Turpin, Jason (2018-08-29). "What is Selective Tree and Shrub Pruning-How to Prune Correctly!". Turpin Landscape Design/Build. Retrieved 2022-04-29.
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