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How to Identify an Ohio Shrub

By John Lindell ; Updated September 21, 2017

Ohio’s forests, open woodlands, fields and roadsides are home to many types of shrubs. Some of these plants can grow to tree size in certain conditions, making the task of identifying them even tougher. Put your efforts into studying the different parts of a shrub and in assessing such facets of the plant as its shape and overall appearance.

Judge the size of shrubs you discover growing wild in Ohio. Many are large enough to be small trees, like thicket serviceberry, which can grow as tall as 20 feet. Others rarely grow tall enough to fall under the classification of trees. Arrowwood viburnum typically is wider than it is tall, with a diameter of 15 feet but a height of only 10.

Inspect the leaves you find growing on Ohio’s shrubs closely. Take note of such features as their size, shape and colors. Using cranberrybush as a prime example, you would immediately notice that the leaves have a trident shape, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. You could almost see a resemblance to a duck’s foot in the shape of these leaves. Factor in that they are dark green and turn red, yellow or yellow in autumn, and you would have information vital to your recognition of the shrub.

Observe the shape of Ohio’s shrubs. See if they have an irregular form or one that can allow you to categorize it. For instance, the burning bush, an ornamental shrub that frequently produces enough seeds to “escape” into the wild, has a vase shape. Buttonbush, on the other hand, is an irregular sprawling species that can grow into any shape.

Examine the flowers that develop on some of Ohio’s shrubs. Look at the color, size and positioning of the blossoms. Taking blackhaw as an example, notice that it has quarter-inch-wide white flowers that emerge in clusters as large as 4 inches in diameter throughout the shrub.

Study the fruit produced on Ohio’s shrubs. Focus on its arrangement and color. By seeing that the fruit on a black chokeberry shrub hangs in clusters of green immature round berries that ripen to a glossy black in autumn, you could have the ability to identify the plant.

Look for other features that will give you a clue to an Ohio shrub’s identity. Thorns are one, such as those that develop all over the buckthorn, a common invasive shrub found in such places as in fencerows and bordering fields in Ohio. Arborvitae is an evergreen shrub or small tree in Ohio that has scale-like foliage and yellow fruit that turns into brown seed cones.


About the Author


John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.