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What’s the difference between trees and shrubs?

Tree and shrubs - Émondage SBP

What’s a tree or shrub? Sometimes it’s not easy to distinguish the different species that are found in our backyard or garden. While some plants are considered to be trees, others are rather part of the shrub family. To help you see more clearly, here is a short guide to help you understand the difference between the two.

First, it should be pointed out that there is no clear rule to define precisely what really distinguishes the two types of plants. However, certain elements, such as the stem, the size of the plant and its growth, can be used to link and place them in one of these categories.

The tree is larger and has only one trunk.

While both types of plants have a woody stem, in general, the tree is recognized by its unique brown trunk and wider shape. Compared to the shrub, the tree is generally larger in size, up to 100 metres tall and is taller and wider than its congener.

Smaller in size, the shrub exceeds at most seven metres – some arborists say eight – and its base is composed of several, often branched, stems, which are thinner than the tree trunks, which are rarely branched. An example of a shrub that could easily be confused with a tree is the lilac. Having several stems, the lilac is a deciduous shrub up to seven metres high, with broad, green leaves. Other shrubs can be confused with trees, and this is explained by their resemblance in every respect to their congeners

Different growth

In terms of growth, trees tend to grow higher and their branches are further away from the ground, while shrubs can grow in all directions and their leaves are generally lower. Holly and orange trees, for example, are considered shrubs.

Other categories of plants

Other types of plants could end up in your garden. In addition to trees and shrubs, bushes are plants consisting of even more multiple and branched stems than those of shrubs. What’s more, the size of a bush generally doesn’t exceed four metres and is therefore slightly smaller than the shrub. Bushes are usually round and bushy in shape.
Depending on the arborists, bushes are considered either shrubs or shrubberies.

In short, we notice that if there are no predefined rules to distinguish all these plants from each other, certain criteria, such as their size, trunk size and growth make it possible to distinguish them. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask for the advice of an arborist or a landscape specialist. At Émondage SBP, we can inform you about the different types of trees and shrubs in your garden and offer you a pruning service for the care of your trees.