Herbaceous vs. Herb
The botanical definition of an herb broadens the scope to include a wider variety of plants. Herbaceous plants are described as not having a persistent woody stem above the ground (with some exceptions), and they typically die back at the end of the growing season. New plants then grow from seeds, or new growth develops from underground roots, bulbs, rhizomes, or tubers. There are herbaceous plant species in all three life-cycle categories: annuals, biennials, and perennials. They include such varied plants as peonies, sunflowers, ginger, lettuce, lilies, carrot, daisies, potato, fuchsia, and onions.
Many herbaceous plants have been staple crops for centuries. Onions, garlic, parsnips, carrots, cabbage, and turnips kept many a Medieval Europe peasant family going, as well as flavoring the stews and soups of the ruling class. Potatoes were a staple in South America before they were taken to Europe—and subsequently played an infamous role in Ireland’s history. Potatoes, squash, beans, peanuts, and bananas were some of the herbaceous plants that people in Central and South America relied on, and lentils, carrots, onions, garlic, cabbage, and tea have been longstanding parts of China’s diet. In Africa, the herbaceous plants that produce yams, okra, legumes, and melons have continued to be important crops.