Buxus sempervirens

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.

It is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to 1-9 m tall, with a trunk up to 20 cm diameter (exceptionally to 10 m tall and 45 cm diameter). 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.

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.

Cultivation and uses

It is 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. Several cultivars have been selected, including 'Argenteo-variegata' and 'Marginata' with variegated foliage, and 'Vardar Valley', a slow-growing semi-dwarf cultivar.

The wood ("boxwood") is very hard and heavy, used for engraving, marquetry, woodturning, tool handles, and mallet heads. The noted English engraver Thomas Bewick pioneered the use of boxwood blocks for engraving.

The species is locally naturalised in parts of North America.

References

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