Proposed features/shrubbery

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This proposal is currently beeing re-opened. Work in progress

Status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: Cartographer10, JeroenHoek
Tagging: natural=shrubbery
Applies to: area
Definition: Land covered with manicured bush, shrubs or shrubbery, often used for decorative and space-filling purposes.
Drafted on: 2021-02-21


An earlier version of this proposal was rejected. This draft aims to address the criticism raised during that vote.


The tag natural=shrubbery is proposed:

Key Value Optional Definition
natural=* shrubbery No To define an area of manicured bush, shurbs and shrubbery that are often planted for decorative and space-filling purposes. Manicured is defined as an area of land or vegetation neatly cut or trimmed[1]. A slightly more wild but still trimmed look is also covered.
shrubbery:density=* sparse, medium, dense Yes Indicates the effective density of the shrubbery.
shrubbery:topiary=* no (default), yes, user defined Yes (Under consideration based on feedback.) Indicate whether and how the shrubbery is sculpted. This can be a general yes or any used defined shape like a cube or an animal. This will in practice often be combined with shrubbery:density=dense for hedges.


Landscaped bush, shrubs and shrubbery are a common feature in many built-up areas. These bits of greenery tend to serve aesthetic as well as pragmatic functions — usually acting as decoration, often acting as natural barriers between different uses of public space, and sometimes being nothing more than a way to fill some gaps in the layout of some grander landscaping scheme.

In OpenStreetMap this type of manicured greenery is overwhelmingly tagged with natural=scrub. However, this tag is more intended for wild scrublands and lacks the implication of the area being actively managed and manicured by humans. This proposal seeks to introduce natural=shrubbery for the purpose of these landscaped shrubby areas. This will eventually allow renderers to distinguish between the two, and give data consumers a tag with a clear unambiguous meaning.

Also, this proposed tag offers the ability to restructure the hedges as barriers. A line can clearly be tagged as barrier=hedge but for shrubbery/hedges as area, the barrier function is subjective and different mappers will claim different. Additionally, General routers will never route through an area of shrubbery just like they will never route through a house or river unless specifically mapped with a road or path. In that way, an area of shrubbery implies a barrier. Specialized routers or scientists can decide different for their applications based on the objectively mapped areas. Optionally, the subtag shrubbery:density=* can be used to objectively identify the density of shrubbery that data users can use to interpret the shrubbery areas differently. This makes the data more objective and allows for different interpretation depending on the needs of the data user. Also, for renderers this has the advantage that it removes the confusion about whether a barrier=hedge should be rendered as a line or area where for areas rendering in Carto was dropped.


There are several reasons why this key and value has been chosen:

  • Discussion on the proposed tag landuse=shrubs revealed that the landuse tag is not preferred for this. It is not seen as an actual land use compared to, for example, a residential or industrial area.
  • This tag describes a natural feature that fits within the definition of the natural key: “The natural key is used to describe wide variety of physical geography, geological and landcover features, including ones that have been modified or created by humans”. See also natural=tree, natural=water, or natural=beach which all can be both naturally occurring as well as man made. For a more in-depth explanation please see the appendix.
  • Another option was to keep tagging these shrubs as natural=scrub adding a sub-tag via scrub=*. The problem here is that scrub is often associated with wild scrublands. Also, it is hard to come-up with proper values for the scrub key.
  • natural=scrub was also considered with the tag managed=* possibly with a value like "decorative". Again here, scrub is often associated with wild scrublands. Also, an area of scrubland can be managed ( in terms of for example a nature resereve) but not maniured or intended for decorative purposes.
  • leisure=garden with some secondary tags was also considered. However, one might not see these shrubs and bushes as a leisure acitivty. Additionally, other renderers might incorrectly assume that these shrubs and bushes are gardens that people can visit as leisure.
  • natural=shrubs was also considered. It is argued that shrubs is more commenly known compared to shrubbery. However, there are a few reasons to oppose for shrubs in favour of shrubbery. The word is very similar to the word "scrub" and "shrub" (both already accepted natural values). This creates the risk for confusion between the values. Secondly, all values in the natural key are singular while shrubs is plurar. This makes shrubs not preferred for consistency reasons. At last, shrubbery puts more emphesis on the decorative and human factor included with the shrubs and bushes intended to map.


natural=shrubbery can only be used on closed ways area.

For a linear feature that acts as a barrier, consider barrier=hedge instead. For vegetation where the bushes act as ground-cover for a forest or clump of trees, the tags landuse=forest or natural=wood are preferred. If distinct, separate trees are planted in a shrubbery area, the area could be tagged as natural=shrubbery with the trees as either natural=tree or natural=tree_row.

Aditionally, the density of the shrubbery and whether it is sculped can be indicated using the tags in the table below. The shrubbery can also be further defined with the already existing tags like leaf_cycle=* and leaf_type=*, genus=*, and height=*

Key Value Definition Examples
shrubbery:density=* sparse Sparse planted shrubbery. A guideline is that people can easily walk through it.
medium Medium planted shrubbery. A guideline is that people can walk through it but that it takes some effort and that it might result in some scratches. Medium dense shrubbery San Mateo.jpg
dense Dense planted shrubbery. A guideline is that people cannot walk through it. Starr 061206-1984 Pittosporum tobira.jpgParisPedestrianStreetCul-de-sac.jpgBattery Park City 007.JPG
shrubbery:topiary=* yes To indicate in general that the shrubbery is pruned into an artificial shape without specifying the shape.
user defined A user defined value to indicate the shape into which the shrubbery is pruned. A typical and common value might be box, but it could be anything.


Below an gallery of features that should be tagged as natural=shrubbery

Below an gallery of features that should not be tagged as natural=shrubbery


Any rendering style that wishes to support the tag with a mininal of fuss can opt to employ the same rendering as natural=scrub. natural=shrubbery could eventually be rendered similar in a shade and colour to natural=scrub, but with a pattern that evokes a slightly less ‘wild’ appearance.

Additionally, rendering can be adjusted depending of the provided density value.

Features/Pages affected

If this tag value is approved, a new wiki page for this natural value will be created and the tag will be added to the natural=* overview.

Additionally, on the pages for barrier=hedge, natural=scrub, leisure=garden, landuse=village_green, and natural=shrub, references may be made to the natural=shrubbery as an alternative for areas that fall under the definition of this tag. barrier=hedge should be changed so that it can only be mapped on ways way.

External discussions

The topic of this proposal was already partly discussed in the proposal for landuse=shrubs[2][3].


Please comment on the discussion page.