Buxus sempervirens
Buxus sempervirens.jpg
Mature specimen
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Buxales
Family: Buxaceae
Genus: Buxus
Species: B. sempervirens
Binomial name
Buxus sempervirens

Buxus sempervirens (Common Box or European Box; also as Boxwood) is a flowering plant in the genus Buxus, native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco, and east through the northern Mediterranean region to Turkey.[1][2][3] Buxus colchica of western Caucasus and B. hyrcana of northern Iran and eastern Caucasus are commonly treated as synonyms of B. sempervirens.[4][5]

It is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 1–9 m tall, with a trunk up to 20 cm diameter this rather large for a small evergreen bush. (exceptionally to 10 m tall and 45 cm diameter[6]). The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, green to yellow-green, oval, 15–30 mm long and 5–13 mm broad. The hermaphrodite flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, with no petals and are insect pollinated; the fruit is a three-lobed capsule containing 3-6 seeds.[1][3]

The species typically grows on soils derived from chalk, limestone, usually as an understorey in forests of larger trees, most commonly associated with Fagus sylvatica forests, but also sometimes in open dry montane scrub, particularly in the Mediterranean region. Box Hill, Surrey is named after its notable box population, which comprises the largest area of native box woodland in England.[7][8]

Cultivation and usesEdit


In Britain, three burials of the Roman era featured coffins lined with sprays of the evergreen box, a practice unattested elsewhere in Europe.[9]

Box remains a very popular ornamental plant in gardens, being particularly valued for topiary and hedges because of its tolerance of close shearing, small leaves, and scented foliage. The scent is not to everyone's liking: the herbalist John Gerard found it "evill and lothsome" and at Hampton Court Palace Queen Anne had box hedging grubbed up because the odor was offensive, Daniel Defoe tells.[10]

Several cultivars have been selected, including 'Argenteo-variegata' and 'Marginata' with variegated foliage; such "gilded box" received a first notice in John Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).[11] 'Vardar Valley', a slow-growing particularly hardy semi-dwarf cultivar,[12][13] was selected in 1935 by the American botanist Edward Anderson in the upper Vardar valley and sent to the Arnold Arboretum for evaluation.[14]

Slow growth of box renders the wood ("boxwood") very hard (possibly the hardest in Europe) and heavy, and free of grain produced by growth rings, making it ideal for cabinet-making, the crafting of clarinets, engraving, marquetry, woodturning, tool handles, mallet heads and as a substitute for ivory. The noted English engraver Thomas Bewick pioneered the use of boxwood blocks for engraving.[3][13][15][16]

The leaves were formerly used in place of quinine, and as a fever reducer.[15]

The species is locally naturalised in parts of North America.[17]



  1. 1.0 1.1 Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
  2. Flora Europaea: Buxus sempervirens
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 British Trees: Buxus sempervirens
  4. GRIN Taxonomy for Plants – Buxus sempervirens
  5. Med-Checklist: Buxus colchica
  6. Tree Register of the British Isles
  7. Mitchell, A. F. (1974). A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-212035-6
  8. Bean, W. J. (1976). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed., vol. 1. John Murray ISBN 0-7195-1790-7.
  9. H. Goodwin, History of the British Flora (1956) noted in Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Buxus".
  10. Defoe, A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724), noted in Todd Longstaffe-Gowan and Vivian Russell, The Gardens and Parks at Hampton Court Palace (2005:87); the authors suggest that simplification of the fussy Dutch designs to suit an English taste for plain lawn and gravel was actually the major motive (pp 84ff).
  11. Parkinson asserts in his Theatrum Botanicum (1640) that the "gilded" box "hath not been mentioned by any Writer before me": quoted in Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Buxus".
  12. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Plants for a Future: Buxus sempervirens
  14. John L. Creech, note in Coats 1992.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Pg.171, Lawrence, E., ed. (1985) The Illustrated Book of Trees & Shrubs. Gallery Books ISBN 0-8317-8820-8.
  16. University of Newcastle: Thomas Bewick's use of boxwood
  17. Template:Cite web

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