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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 (or bush, but this is more of a gardening term) is a small- to medium-sized perennial woody plant. Unlike herbaceous plants, shrubs have persistent woody stems above the ground. Shrubs can be 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 subshrubs.



Shrubs are perennial woody plants, and therefore have persistent woody stems above ground (compare with 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. [3]


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. [2] Many species of tree may not reach this mature height because of 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.

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 subshrubs. [4]

Multiple stems

Most definitions characterize shrubs as possessing multiple stems with no main trunk. [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. Many trees can grow in multiple stemmed forms also, such as oak or ash. [2] [ clarification needed ]

Use in parks

Euonymus bushes in a garden Euonymus europaeus bushes.jpg
Euonymus bushes in a garden

An area of cultivated shrubs in a park or a garden is known as a shrubbery. [5] When clipped as topiary, suitable species or varieties of shrubs develop dense foliage and many small leafy branches growing close together. [6] Many shrubs respond well to renewal pruning, in which hard cutting back to a "stool" results in long new stems known as "canes".[ clarification needed ] Other shrubs respond better to selective pruning to reveal their structure and character.

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. [7]

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 structural or plant life-form of woody plants which are less than 8 metres (26 ft) high and usually have many stems arising at or near the base.[ clarification needed ] 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. [8]

For shrubs 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.


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.

Ornamental plant Plant that is grown for decorative purposes

Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as houseplants, cut flowers and specimen display. The cultivation of ornamental plants comes under floriculture, which is a major branch of horticulture.

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.


A subshrub or dwarf shrub is a short 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 a disputed name, and the plant 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, and widdy.


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>Pachysandra procumbens</i> Species of flowering plant

Pachysandra procumbens, the Allegheny pachysandra or Allegheny spurge, is a flowering plant in the family Buxaceae, native to the southeast United States from West Virginia and Kentucky south to Florida, and west to Louisiana. The name Allegheny is sometimes spelled Alleghany.

<i>Stewartia malacodendron</i>

Stewartia malacodendron, the silky camellia, silky stewartia or Virginia stewartia, is a species of flowering plant in the family Theaceae. It grows slowly into a large deciduous shrub or small tree, typically 3–4.5 m (10–15 ft) tall, but sometimes as tall as 9 m (30 ft). It is native to the southeastern United States.

<i>Sorbus mougeotii</i>

Sorbus mougeotii, the Vosges whitebeam or Mougeot's whitebeam, is a species of whitebeam native to the mountains of central and western Europe from the Pyrenees east through the Alps to Austria, and north to the Vosges Mountains.

<i>Condea emoryi</i> Species of flowering plant

Condea emoryi, the desert lavender, is a large, multi-stemmed shrub species of flowering plant in Lamiaceae, the mint family.

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>Rhus copallinum</i> Species of tree

Rhus copallinum, the winged sumac, shining sumac, dwarf sumac or flameleaf sumac, is a species of flowering plant in the cashew family (Anacardiaceae) that is native to eastern North America. It is a deciduous tree growing to 3.5–5.5 metres (11–18 ft) tall and an equal spread with a rounded crown. A 5-year-old sapling will stand about 2.5 metres (8.2 ft).

<i>Salvia gesneriflora</i>

Salvia gesneriflora is a herbaceous perennial or subshrub native to mountainous provinces of the Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico, growing at 7,500–10,000 ft elevation. It was named for Gesneria-like flower. The genus Gesneria is named in honor of 15th-century Swiss botanist Conrad Gessner. 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.

<i>Rhus aromatica</i>

Rhus aromatica, the fragrant sumac, is a deciduous shrub in the family Anacardiaceae native to North America. It is found in southern Canada and nearly all of the lower 48 states except peninsular Florida. It grows in upland open woods, fields, barrens, and rocky cliffs.

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>Rhamnus alaternus</i>

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

<i>Persoonia media</i> Species of flowering plant

Persoonia media is a species of flowering plant in the family Proteaceae and is endemic to eastern Australia. It is an erect to spreading shrub or tree with branchlets and leaves that are glabrous or only sparsely hairy, elliptic to egg-shaped leaves and up to sixteen yellow flowers on a rachis up to 150 mm (5.9 in) long.


  1. Anna Lawrence; William Hawthorne (2006). Plant Identification: Creating User-friendly Field Guides for Biodiversity Management. Routledge. pp. 138–. ISBN   978-1-84407-079-4.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Allaby, Michael (2019). A dictionary of plant sciences. Oxford Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780198833338. OCLC   1097073225.
  3. Bremness, Lesley (1994). The complete book of herbs. Viking Studio Books. p. 8. ISBN   9780140238020.
  4. Peggy Fischer (1990). Essential shrubs: the 100 best for design and cultivation. Friedman/Fairfax Publishers. pp. 9–. ISBN   978-1-56799-319-6. ... Examples of subshrubs include candytuft, lavender, and rosemary. These broad definitions are ...
  5. Patrick Whitefield (2002). How to Make a Forest Garden. Permanent Publications. pp. 113–. ISBN   978-1-85623-008-7.
  6. Varkulevicius, Jane (17 May 2010). Pruning for Flowers and Fruit. Csiro Publishing. ISBN   9780643101975 . Retrieved 19 December 2017 via Google Books.
  7. Elliott, Franklin Reuben (1 November 2008). Popular Deciduous and Evergreen Trees and Shrubs. Applewood Books. ISBN   9781429012904 . Retrieved 19 December 2017 via Google Books.
  8. Costermans, L. F. (1993) Native trees and shrubs of South-Eastern Australia. rev. ed. ISBN   0-947116-76-1