off-topic botanical question: Curious about shrubs as a gardening term

Sun, 06 Jan 2008 03:24:24 PST

as far as I know, shrub is not a scientific term, rather a gardening 
term that has worked its way into general use.  For myself, a shrub must 
have a permanent set of woody stems and branches that continue into 
growth each season.  Some shrubs are very large, such as some Magnolia, 
while others are quite small, as we find in Rhododenron.  In my garden 
Phygelius is a small shrub reaching about 2 meters.  Yucca is not woody, 
therefore I wouldn't call any of its relatives shrubs.  Some people may 
argue this, but the stems of woody plants and succulents are 
structurally quite different. 

The term sub-shrub is bantered about without real definition, imo.  I 
have imagined it as a small shrub-like perennial, such as Thymus or 
Salvia have, that is too ephemeral to truly overwinter/rest.  We may 
place Penstemon in this category, as well.   They do form shrubs, but 
they do not last.  If not for their rootstock, they would not survive.  
What I see as true shrubs, if the entire top was removed (not simply cut 
back hard), the root stock would probably not recover.  For me this is a 
practical division, but I doubt sound enough for scientific definition.  
Using this definition, I would consider Fuchsia a shrub, but perhaps not 
in all species and all climates.

Hope this helps.  It is really just another educated opinion.

Jamie V.
Zone 8

Marguerite English schrieb:
> I have been doing some studying about garden terms and have a botanical 
> question.   I was looking at Phygelius information and it was identified 
> as a shrub.  I had previously called it a perennial.  So what 
> differentiates a shrub from other perennials?  I noticed some authors 
> by-pass this problem by calling certain plants  "sub-shrubs."  And how 
> does something like Yucca or Hesperaloe fit in?  Are they shrubs also, 
> even though they are succulent?  
>     Thanks for considering this...           Marguerite, still growing 
> mostly Iridaceae and Zephyranthes, and developing a new cottage-like 
> garden for my local arid, dry and windy planting conditions at 3700 feet 
> in southern California mountains.
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