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Woody plants: what are they, characteristics and examples

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 characteristics of woody plants and what differentiates them from the rest? If you want to learn a little more about woody crops, join us in this AgroCorrn article about what woody plants are, 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 the trees do not give branches from the 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 with 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 the vines 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. 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 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 various, but the most remarkable is the wood itself , which other plants do not have. The woody trunk is made of wood, composed of lignin and cellulose. The trunk in turn consists of several layers:

  • The cortex: 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 of 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 provide 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. Here are some examples of woody plants :

  • One of the most emblematic and well-known woody plants with flowers is the rose bush . 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.
  • Among 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 are a very important part of the human diet in much of the world.
  • We also have woody climbing-type fruit trees, such as vines , with the fruits of which wine is made, one of the oldest and most successful fermented beverages in the world.
  • Nor can we forget about the large conifers .
  • Other examples are the shrubs of smaller aromatic plants , such as lavender, rosemary or thyme.
  • In turn, there are more peculiar cases such as those of some bamboos and palm trees , since they develop woody stems even though they are considered herbaceous.

Differences between woody plants and herbaceous plants

The main difference between woody and herbaceous 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. The herbaceous plants , however, can let die the aerial part during the most hostile stations to regrow again later.

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

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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