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A subshrub (Latin suffrutex) or dwarf shrub is a short woody plant. Prostrate shrub is a similar term. The term often is used interchangeably with bush.[1]

The definition of a subshrub is not clearly distinguishable from that of a shrub; examples of reasons for describing plants as subshrubs include ground-hugging stems or low growth habit. They may be largely herbaceous, 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, rooted in rocky cracks.

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


A chamaephyte or dwarf-shrub is a plant that bears hibernating buds on persistent shoots near the ground – usually woody plants with perennating buds borne close to the ground, no more than 25 centimetres (9.8 in) above soil surface. One significance of the closeness to the ground is that the buds remain within the surface boundary layer and are thus somewhat protected from harsh winter winds.[2]

Chamaephytes are especially important in stressful environments, for example in alpine, arctic or dry ecosystems, often grazed by herbivores, and on nutrient-poor soils or rock.


Prominent examples are many of the species of maquis and other submediterranean dry ecosystems (such as thyme, Thymus vulgaris, and rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis), the different heather species (e.g. Calluna vulgaris and Erica species), African wild olive (Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata) and edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum). The term chamaephyte is particularly used within the context of Raunkiær plant life-forms.

Chamaephytes also include cushion plants.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jackson, Benjamin, Daydon; A Glossary of Botanic Terms with their Derivation and Accent; Published by Gerald Duckworth & Co. London, 4th ed 1928
  2. ^ 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, doi:10.2307/3558409, JSTOR 3558409, PMID 21669698 
  3. ^ Molau, U.; Nordenhall, U.; Eriksen, B. (2005), "Onset of flowering and climate variability in an alpine landscape: a 10-year study from Swedish Lapland", American Journal of Botany 92 (3): 422–31, doi:10.3732/ajb.92.3.422, PMID 21652418