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Native and normative shrubs have many uses, both in private gardens and as elements in commercial and civic landscaping. Shrubby willows and alders function as soil stabilizers, preventing erosion naturally along waterways. Other shrubs are natural windbreaks that reduce wind flow over open soils. Farmers value shrubby windbreaks that preserve barren farm soils during fall and winter months, when the land is barren and topsoil is especially liable to be blown away during winter storms. For much the same reason, homeowners may plant certain types of shrubs at strategic locations along the boundaries of the yard to reduce air flow.

Many shrubs are economically important as landscape ornamentals. They are prized for the beauty, variety, pattern, and color of their leaves, buds, flowers, or fruits. The color, shape, and texture of their leaves are all valued qualities for which shrubs are appreciated and used. Their shape, texture, pattern, and even the intricate contrast and pattern of their leafless twigs in winter can enhance the beauty and interest of a garden landscape.

Food Sources

In addition to their uses in gardens, many shrubs are important sources of foods for wildlife and for humans. Fruits of blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, currents, gooseberries, plums, and hazelnuts are but a few of the foods obtained from shrubs. Many, such as blueberries and raspberries, are made into pies. Some currents and gooseberries are key components of jams and spreads. Still others, such as plums, cherries, and grapes, are eaten as fruits or used in the preparation of jams, jellies, pies, as cooking ingredients, or used for other baked goods. Some fruits are gathered only in the wild, but many others are cultivated. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries are cultivated varieties derived from hundreds of years of selecting and cultivating wild native shrubs. Fruits of plums, cherries, and especially the serviceberries, or Juneberries, are used to make fine and natural wines, and it may be that serviceberries were named because they provided the earliest fruits that could be made into wines for the Eucharist during church services.

Ecologically, shrubs are also important for wildlife. They provide food, shelter, and resting and nesting areas for a wide variety of birds. For example, at least forty-six species of birds feed on elderberry fruits.

Medicinal Uses

By 1812 Johann Jacob Paul Moldenhawer had shown that plant tissue was composed of independent cells, and in 1826 Henri Milne-Edwards determined that all animal tissues were formed from globules.

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Burning Bushes and Dogwoods

The various species of burning bushes, or Euonymous, are attractive and bushy shrubs that offer good landscape contours and contrast, but they are probably best known for their gorgeous scarlet, firered, or fire-pink colors during the fall season.

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Fruiting Shrubs

In addition to cover and color, many species and varieties of shrubs offer fruits for humans and for wildlife.

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Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Taking their name from two Greek words, rhodo for "rose" and dendron for "tree," the rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron) are best known for their bright and showy flowers, but these shrubs also offer glossy green leaves.

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