Abstract. Single species and bivariate distribution patterns in a semi-arid shrubland in southeastern Spain, dominated by the tall leguminous shrub Retama sphaerocarpa, were investigated by second-order spatial analysis based on Ripley's K-function. Shrubs were significantly clumped because of a strong association of dwarf shrubs, mostly Artemisia barrelieri, under the canopy of Retama. Retama shrubs were randomly distributed, but when different size-classes were analysed separately, the pattern changed from significantly clumped to random and then to regular with increasing canopy diameter, suggesting increasing intraspecific competition with shrub size. Artemisia was significantly clumped at all scales because of aggregation under the canopy of large Retama shrubs. The association between the species became stronger with increasing canopy diameter of Retama shrubs, suggesting that facilitation prevailed over interspecific competition because of niche separation in different tiers, both above and below ground. Retama shrub size thus determined both the type of pattern for its own size class and tier, and the scale and intensity of the association with its understorey shrubs.