Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants

The main difference between woody and herbaceous plants is that the woody plants have a strong stem, which is not easily bendable whereas the herbaceous plants have a flexible stem. Furthermore, woody plants are perennial plants while herbaceous plants are annuals, biennials or perennials.

Woody and herbaceous plants are two types of plants classified based on their ability to produce wood.

Key Areas Covered

1. What are Woody Plants
     – Definition, Types, Examples
2. What are Herbaceous Plants
     – Definition, Types, Examples
3. What are the Similarities Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Annuals, Biennials, Deciduous Plants, Evergreen Plants, Herbaceous Plants, Perennials, Shrubs, Woody Plants

Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants - Comparison Summary

What are Woody Plants

Woody plants are the plants with a hard stem. The two main types of woody plants are evergreen and deciduous. In evergreen plants, the foliage persists throughout the year. The trunks and branches of the deciduous plants remain alive in winter but, all their leaves are fallen off in fall. Woody plant can be either a tree or a shrub.

  • Tree – A tree is a perennial with a single trunk. They can grow to a considerable height (at least 13 feet) above the ground. The diameter of a tree is more than 3 inches. The lateral branches generally occur around 4½ feet above the ground. On that account, both angiosperms and gymnosperms can be trees. Angiosperms are broad-leaved while gymnosperms are needle-leaved. The woody growth occurs due to the action of vascular cambium, which forms annual rings in each growing season. 
    Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants

    Figure 1: A Tree

  • Shrub – Several main stems occur in shrubs but, the height is less than 13 feet. The diameter of the stem is around 3 inches. Witch hazel, forsythia, holly, roses, lilacs, rose of Sharon, red twig dogwood, hibiscus, et.c are some of the examples of shrubs.
    Main Difference - Woody and Herbaceous Plants

    Figure 2: Rose Shrub

What are Herbaceous Plants

Herbaceous plants are non-woody plants in which the top growth dies back at the end of the season. They are also known as herbs. The three types of herbaceous plants are perennial, annual, and biennial.

  • Perennial herbaceous plants – Only the roots of perennial herbaceous plants survive in winter and the plant regrows during the spring. Ferns and most grasses are examples of perennial herbaceous plants. Other than that, daisies, columbine, mums, delphiniums, peonies, potatoes, mint, salvia, tarragon, hostas, catnip, etc. are some perennial herbaceous plants.
    Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants - Figure 3

    Figure 3: Mint

  • Annual herbaceous plants – These plants die in the winter after producing fruits. Therefore, these plants have to be replanted every year. Dill, basil, fennel, winter savory, marjoram, chervil, German chamomile, cilantro, etc. are annual herbaceous plants.
  • Biennial herbaceous plants – Only the underground parts of the biennial herbaceous plants survive in winter but, these plants bloom and die in the second year. Stevia, carrots, spinach, onions, sage, parsley, lettuce, parsnips, Black-Eyed Susan, and ragwort are some biennial herbaceous plants.

Similarities Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants

  • Woody and herbaceous plants are two types of plants classified based on the ability to produce wood.
  • Both can be perennials.

Difference Between Woody and Herbaceous Plants

Definition

Woody plants refer to a plant that produces wood as its structural tissue whereas herbaceous plants refer to plants that have no persistent woody stem above ground.

Stem

Also, woody plants have a strong stem while herbaceous plants have a flexible stem.

Color of the Stem

Furthermore, the stem of the woody plants is covered with a bark while the stem of herbaceous plants stays green.

Size

Woody plants are the tallest and largest plants on earth while herbaceous plants are short and small when compared to herbaceous plants.

Life Time

Moreover, the woody plants are mainly perennials while the herbaceous plants can be annuals, biennials or perennials. Therefore, woody plants grow in size in every season while herbaceous plants may die back every growth season.

Conclusion

The woody plants have a strong stem made up of wood while the stem of herbaceous plants is flexible. Woody plants are perennials that grow in every growing season. On the other hand, herbaceous plants can be perennial, annuals or biennials. The main difference between woody and herbaceous plants is the features of the stem.

Reference:

1. Beaulieu, David. “Learn About Examples of Woody Plants.” The Spruce, TheSpruce, 15 June 2018, Available Here
2. “Herbaceous – Definition and Plants.” Biology Dictionary, Biology Dictionary, 28 Apr. 2017, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Bright green tree – Waikato” By Floyd Wilde from Cambridge, New Zealand – 00027 (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Commons Wikimedia 
2. “Shrub Groundcover Rose ‘Kent'” By Drew Avery (CC BY 2.0) via flickr
3. “peppermint-mint-herbs-plant-aroma-91080″ (CC0) via Pixbay

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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