Budburst Logo

A project of the Chicago Botanic Garden

Plant Group

Deciduous Trees and Shrubs

Deciduous trees and shrubs are woody plants.

They shed their leaves at the end of the growing season, usually in the winter. However, leaf drop can also occur during a dry season in warm climates. Examples include red maple, chokecherry, and common lilac.

At Budburst, we group deciduous trees and deciduous shrubs together. However, there are significant differences. Deciduous trees are generally defined as woody, self-supporting perennial plants that have a single main stem (trunk) and grow to more than 20 feet tall. Deciduous shrubs—while also woody, perennial plants—are smaller than trees (less than 20 feet) and usually have several stems.

Although these trees and shrubs differ in appearance, they share similar life events (phenology). This is why Budburst places them in the same group.

Phenology Status

Life events for this plant group revolve around leafing, flowering, fruiting, leaf color change, and leaf drop. Plants are unique, and the same phenophase on red maple will look a little different than on a sugar maple.


No Flowers

No flowers or pollen visible.

Flower Bud Burst

Flower sepals, the protective bud scales, have shed from the bud, exposing tender new growth tissues of one or more flower buds.

First Flower

First flowers are fully open (stamens/pistils are visible) on at least three branches. When open, flowers on wind-pollinated trees and shrubs will release yellow dust-like pollen when touched.

Early Flowering

Only a few flowers have emerged (less than 5%) or pollen is just starting to disperse.

Middle Flowering

Half or more of the flowers are fully open or releasing pollen on three or more branches.

Late Flowering

Most flowers have wilted or fallen off (over 95%) or most pollen has fallen.

Fruits or Seeds

No Ripe Fruit

No ripe fruits or seeds visible.

First Ripe Fruit

First fruits become fully ripe or seeds drop naturally from the plant on three or more branches. Ripening is often indicated by a change to the mature color or by drying and splitting open.

Early Fruiting

Only a few ripe fruits or seeds are visible (less than 5%).

Middle Fruiting

Half or more branches have fully ripe fruit or the seeds are dropping naturally from the plant. If fruits are in clusters or stalks, then record when at least one fruit is ripe on at least half of the branches.

Late Fruiting

Most fruits or seeds have been dispersed from the plant (over 95%).


No Leaves

No new leaves visible.

Leaf Bud Burst

Protective scale coating is shed from the bud, exposing tender new growth of one or more leaves.

First Leaf Unfolded

First leaves are completely unfolded from the bud on at least three branches. Leaves need to be opened completely (flat) and the leaf stem or base must be visible (you might need to bend the leaf backwards to see those).

Early Leaves Unfolding

Only a few leaves have unfolded from the buds (less than 5%).

Middle Leaves Unfolding

Half or more leaves have unfolded from the buds.

All Leaves Unfolded

All or most leaves are fully unfolded.

No Leaf Color Change

No leaves have changed color.

Early Leaf Color Change

Only a few leaves have changed color (less than 5%).

50 Percent Color

Half or more of the branches have leaves that have started to change color.

All Leaves Changed Color

All or most leaves have changed color.

No Leaves Dropped

No leaves have dropped.

Early Leaf Drop

Only a few leaves have dropped (less than 5%).

50 Percent Leaf Drop

Half or more of the leaves have fallen off the tree or shrub.

All Leaves Dropped

All or most leaves have dropped.

Find a Budburst Deciduous Tree and Shrub Species

Here are some examples of Deciduous Tree and Shrub species

  1. Quaking Aspen
  2. Red osier dogwood
  3. Sugar maple

Do your part for our planet. Join Budburst today.

See Menu

Stay Informed

Get the latest from Budburst with
our monthly email newsletter.

Get in Touch

Have any questions or new ideas
you'd like to share?

Contact Us

Get the App

Budburst is a project of the
Chicago Botanic Garden

One of the treasures of the
Forest Preserves of Cook County

Creative Commons
BY-NC-SA 4.0

  1. Terms of Use
  2. Privacy Policy
  3. Data Sharing and Citation Policies
  4. 2021 Chicago Botanic Garden. All Rights Reserved.