Difference between Woody and Herbaceous Plants

Woody and herbaceous plants are two types of plants divided on the basis of woods they produce. Woody plants produce a hard woody stem above the ground, whereas herbaceous plants produce soft flexible green stems above the ground.

Woody Plants

Woody pants are mainly perennial plants which live to grow season after season. They exist in the form of trees, shrubs and vines. Woody plants are of two types: deciduous and evergreen plants. Deciduous plants tend to go dormant during winter seasons by shedding all their leaves. Evergreen plants do not shed their leaves totally, but keep on shedding in winter seasons until the growth comes to a stop.

The deciduous plants change their leaf color in the fall season because the vasculature is cut off to the leaves. When favourable conditions arrive, the plant breaks dormancy and new leaves grow.

Woody plants are mostly common in the colder regions and have distinct rings due to growth of new vascular bundles every year. These rings are indicative of the age of the plant.

Herbaceous Plants

Herbaceous plants do not have a woody stem above the ground, instead they have a soft, green flexible stem. They are mostly biennials and annuals, along with a few perennials. In unfavourable seasons, the top growth dies down to the ground.

Annual herbaceous plants die after completing their flowering and fruiting cycle and grow again from the seeds in the next season. The biennial and perennial herbaceous plants live only through roots in the winter season and grow back into stems and leaves in the spring.

Let us look at the points where both the plants differ from each other.

Woody Plants

Herbaceous Plants


Woody plants produce woody stems above the ground.

Herbaceous plants produce soft, flexible, green stems above the ground.

Life cycle

Mostly perennial.

Can be annual, biennial or perennial.


Deciduous and evergreen plants.

Annual, biennial and perennial herbaceous plants.

Plant type

They exist mainly as trees, shrubs and vines.

They are mostly herbs.

Cell wall

The cells walls of the stem are made of cellulose and lignin.

The cell walls are made of cellulose only.


They are the tallest and largest terrestrial plants on earth.

They are smaller in size.


Vines: grapevine, poison ivy

Trees: hemlock, cypress

Shrubs: hazelnut, bottlebrush

Biennials: carrot, parsnip

Annuals: dill, fennel

Perennials: potato, mint

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is the main structural difference between a herbaceous and woody plant?

Herbaceous plants show only primary growth whereas woody plants show both primary and secondary growth.


What are the characteristics of herbaceous plants?

Herbaceous plants do not have a woody stem, but a green, soft and flexible one. They grow fast and flower in a short time.


What is the main difference between herbaceous monocot and herbaceous dicot stems?

The vascular bundles in a herbaceous monocot plant are scattered, whereas in a herbaceous dicot stem the vascular bundles are arranged in a ring.


How are the herbaceous stems and woody stems alike?

The vasculature for food and water transport in both the herbaceous and woody stems is similar.


Is grass a herbaceous plant?

Yes, grasses are herbaceous plants.


What is the difference between herbaceous and deciduous plants?

Herbaceous plants are soft stemmed small plants, whereas deciduous plants are woody and largest terrestrial plants.


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