Skip to Content


« Back to Glossary Index

Subshrub Definition:
– A chamaephyte, subshrub, or dwarf-shrub bears hibernating buds on persistent shoots near the ground.
– These plants are usually woody with perennating buds less than 25 centimeters above the soil surface.
– Chamaephytes are common in stressful environments like nutrient-poor soils, alpine or arctic ecosystems, and ecosystems prone to fires.
– Some species like Banksia and Eucalyptus regrow from a lignotuber or caudex.
– The chamaephyte habit is prevalent in heavily grazed or overgrazed ecosystems.

Examples of Chamaephytes:
– Chamaephytes are found in maquis shrubland and submediterranean dry ecosystems.
– Species like thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) are examples of chamaephytes.
– Heather species such as Calluna vulgaris and Ericas fall under the category.
– African wild olive (Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata) and edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum) are also chamaephytes.
– Cushion plants are included in the chamaephyte classification.

See Also:
– Raunkiær plant life-form
Prostrate shrub
Woody plant

– Harris, James G.; Harris, Melinda Woolf (2001). Plant identification terminology: an illustrated glossary (2nd ed.).
– Jackson, Benjamin, Daydon; A Glossary of Botanic Terms with their Derivation and Accent; Published by Gerald Duckworth & Co. London, 4th ed 1928.
– Raymond Louis Specht (1 February 1981). Heathlands and related shrublands: analytical studies.
– Dennis M. Gorsuch; Steven F. Oberbauer; Jack B. Fisher; Dennis M. Gorsuch; Steven F. Oberbauer; Jack B. Fisher (2001), Comparative Vessel Anatomy of Arctic Deciduous and Evergreen Dicots, American Journal of Botany, 88 (9): 1643–1649.
– Fire in Mediterranean Ecosystems. Cambridge University Press. 2012.

Subshrub (Wikipedia)

The term subshrub (Latin suffrutex) or undershrub refers to either a small shrub (e.g. prostrate shrubs) or a perennial that is largely herbaceous but slightly woody at the base (e.g. garden pink and florist's chrysanthemum). "Subshrub" is often used interchangeably with "bush".

Lavandula stoechas
Linnaea borealis

Because the criteria are matters of degree (normally of height) rather than of kind, the definition of a subshrub is not sharply distinguishable from that of a shrub; examples of reasons for describing plants as subshrubs include ground-hugging stems or low growth habit. Subshrubs may be largely herbaceous though still classified as woody, with overwintering perennial woody growth much lower-growing than deciduous summer growth. Some plants described as subshrubs are only weakly woody and some persist for only for a few years; others however, such as Oldenburgia paradoxa live indefinitely (though is still vulnerable to external effects), rooted in rocky cracks.

Small, low shrubs such as lavender, periwinkle, and thyme, and many shrub-like members of the family Ericaceae, such as cranberries and small species of Erica, are often classed as subshrubs.

« Back to Glossary Index