From Wikipedia
A broom shrub in flower

A shrub (often 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 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. Many botanical groups have species that are shrubs, and others that are trees and herbaceous plants.

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. In terms of longevity, most shrubs fit in between perennials and trees; some may only last about five years even in good conditions, others, usually the larger and more woody, may live to 70 or more.

Shrubland is 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 leaf colour or shape.

Compared to trees and herbaceous plants, perhaps a relatively small number of shrubs have agricultural or commercial uses. Apart from several berry-bearing species (using the culinary rather than botanical definition), few are eaten directly, and they are generally to small for timber use. [3] 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; they are normally harvested from shrub-sized plants, but these would become small trees if left to grow.


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. [4]

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. [5]

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 gardens and parks

Euonymus bushes in a garden

An area of cultivated shrubs in a park or a garden is known as a shrubbery. [6] When clipped as topiary, suitable species or varieties of shrubs develop dense foliage and many small leafy branches growing close together. [7] 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. [8]

Botanical structure

Shrub vegetation (with some cactus) in Webb County, Texas.
Blackthorn shrub (Prunus spinosa) in the Vogelsberg
Winter-flowering Witch-hazel (Hamamelis)
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. [9]

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

  • dense foliage cover (70–100%) — closed-shrub
  • mid-dense foliage cover (30–70%) — open-shrub
  • sparse foliage cover (10–30%) — tall shrubland
  • very sparse foliage cover (<10%) — tall open shrubland

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

  • dense foliage cover (70–100%) — closed- heath or closed low shrubland—(North America)
  • mid-dense foliage cover (30–70%) — open-heath or mid-dense low shrubland—(North America)
  • sparse foliage cover (10–30%) — low shrubland
  • very sparse foliage cover (<10%) — low open shrubland

List of shrubs

Those marked with * can also develop into tree form.



  1. ^ Lawrence, Anna; Hawthorne, William (2006). Plant Identification: Creating User-friendly Field Guides for Biodiversity Management. Routledge. pp. 138–. ISBN  978-1-84407-079-4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Allaby, Michael (2019). A dictionary of plant sciences. Oxford Oxford University Press. ISBN  9780198833338. OCLC  1097073225.
  3. ^ Rosewood does not come from roses.
  4. ^ Bremness, Lesley (1994). The complete book of herbs. Viking Studio Books. p. 8. ISBN  9780140238020.
  5. ^ Fischer, Peggy (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 ...
  6. ^ Whitefield, Patrick (2002). How to Make a Forest Garden. Permanent Publications. pp. 113–. ISBN  978-1-85623-008-7.
  7. ^ Varkulevicius, Jane (17 May 2010). Pruning for Flowers and Fruit. Csiro Publishing. ISBN  9780643101975. Retrieved 19 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Elliott, Franklin Reuben (1 November 2008). Popular Deciduous and Evergreen Trees and Shrubs. Applewood Books. ISBN  9781429012904. Retrieved 19 December 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Costermans, L. F. (1993) Native trees and shrubs of South-Eastern Australia. rev. ed. ISBN  0-947116-76-1