Common box

Buxus sempervirens

About

Although not widespread, where box does occur it can often be in large numbers. These trees can be anything up to several hundred years old. Often cultivated forms are used as ornamental and hedging plants in gardens, where these trees may be clipped into impressive examples of topiary.

 

Box is used to make violin pegs and musical instruments.

How to identify

Mature common box can grow to 6m and have smooth, grey bark which becomes more complex with age and stems which are green and downy. The leaves are an oval shape around 10-25mm long and have a shiny, leathery feel. These dark green leaves grow on short stalks. In April and May, both the female and male flowers can be seen on the same plant. Green-yellow flowers grow in clusters in the leaf axils, each flower consists of many male flowers and a single female flower on the end. These trees are pollinated by wind, once this happens each female flower dries and first becomes a green capsule, then finally a brown, woody seed case.

Where to find it

The South of England and throughout mainland Europe. Box Hill in Surrey is the location of the best-known population of box in Britain.

Habitats

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Box is popular with bees and provides a dense, sheltered habitat for small birds, mammals and insects. The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves and hedgerows sympathetically for all kinds of species. A mix of coppicing, hedgelaying, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland and hedgerow wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for butterflies.

Species information

Common name
Common box
Latin name
Buxus sempervirens
Category
Trees and shrubs
Statistics
Height: 6m Leaves: 10–25mm long
Conservation status
Box blight is the main threat to common box. This is a fungal disease that causes bare patches and dieback, especially on plants used for hedging and topiary. It can also be affected by box sucker - a sap-sucking louse that causes stunted spring growth.