Woody Plants: What They Are, Characteristics and Examples - Summary

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Anyone who has spent a few minutes of their time observing the plant life around them will quickly notice the obvious differences between the major types of plants. There are the herbaceous, which tend to be commonly called "herbs" or "plants" and shrubs and trees, which are very easily differentiated by their larger size and their stems and branches, dark, hard and thicker compared to the green and flexible stems of herbaceous plants.

However, do you know in depth the woody plant characteristics and what differentiates them from the rest? If you want to learn a little more about woody crops, join us in this Green Ecologist article on what are woody plants, their characteristics and examples.

What are woody plants

Woody plants are those that develop a woody stem, that is, a perennial type trunk, which allows them to reach heights much higher than those of plants that do not have them. The classification of woody plants divides them into three main types:


Trees are the largest woody plants, usually over 5 meters high, and characterized by developing a main trunk, from which branches will grow once they reach a certain height. It is important to note that trees do not give branches from ground level; it is the easiest way to distinguish a small tree from a large bush. The branches of the trees are also their secondary stems, which result in intertwining the crown of the tree, in many different ways.

We encourage you to read this other post about What are trees.


The shrubs are woody smaller than the trees, almost always between 1 and 5 meters in height in their mature forms. Its main difference from trees, as we have already mentioned, is that their stems are divided from the same ground level, not having a single main trunk.

Here you can learn more about What are shrubs.


Finally, there are creepers or climbing plants, plants that, although by themselves they do not usually reach heights of more than 1 meter, they usually look for tutors and surfaces on which to lean to continue growing vertically, thus being able to reach great heights and masses. In order to find these tutors and to fixate on them, they have various adapted strategies and bodies.

Discover here 24 species of climbing plants or vines.

In addition to the three main types of woody plants, we have the semi-woody plants, which are found halfway between woody and herbaceous, with stems that have an intermediate consistency between those of these two.

Woody plant characteristics

The characteristics of woody plants are several, but the most notable is its own wood, which other plants do not have. The woody trunk It is made of wood, composed of lignin and cellulose. The trunk in turn consists of several layers:

  • The crust: It is the outermost layer and its function is protective, being composed of dead cells.
  • The liber: It is a very thin layer that carries the sap with the nutrients from photosynthesis.
  • The cambium: It is the layer of reproductive cells, responsible for the creation of new wood and the thickening of the trunk with each growing season, which is normally annual, although not always.
  • The heartwood: it is found in the center of the trunk and in mature trees and shrubs it is composed of dead and very resistant tissue, whose function is to give support and structure to the plant.

Examples of woody plants

Woody plants are very present in our day to day, even if we live in urban environments or with little nature. These are some examples of woody plants:

  • One of the woody plants with flowers most emblematic and known is the rosebush. This shrub or climber, depending on the variety, is characterized by its large and showy flowers, the roses, which in many cases are also markedly fragrant. Its stems tend to be thorny.
  • Between the woody fruit plants we find all the large fruit trees commonly consumed throughout the world. Apple trees, pear trees, all citrus fruits and any other fruit of these characteristics. The fruit trees they are a very important part of the human diet in much of the world.
  • We also have woody climber type fruit trees, such as the vines, with the fruits of which wine is made, one of the oldest and most successful fermented beverages in the world.
  • We can't forget about the big ones either conifers.
  • Other examples are the shrubs of aromatic plants smaller, such as lavender, rosemary or thyme.
  • In turn, there are more peculiar cases such as those of some bamboo and palm trees, since they develop woody stems although they are considered herbaceous.

Differences between woody plants and herbaceous plants

The main difference between woody and herbaceous It is the most visible: the presence of a hard and inflexible lignified stem or trunk. In addition, woody plants, as we have said, are always perennial, finding at most woody plants that live a single year, but still form a lignified stem or trunk. Herbaceous plants, on the other hand, can let their aerial part die during the most hostile seasons, to sprout again later.

Now that you know what are woody plants and various aspects about them, we encourage you to continue learning with these other articles about What are plants and Classes of plants.

If you want to read more articles similar to Woody plants: what are they, characteristics and examples, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

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