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Common Box

Buxus sempervirens

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Buxaceae (Box)
Also in this family:
Evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
4 metres tall
Gardens, scrub, woodland.

Green, no petals
Male and female flowers exist on separate plants. No petals. Male flowers have 4 greenish-white sepals and yellow stamens. Females are greenish and without sepals.
The flower turns into a green capsule and then into a solid brown woody seed case.
Evergreen shrub. Small, short stalks, dark green, oval, shiny and leathery.
The foliage and flowers are scented.
Other Names:
Abassian Boxwood, Boxwood, European Box, European Boxwood.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Buxus sempervirens, also known as common box or boxwood, is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and is known for its ability to tolerate a range of growing conditions. Buxus sempervirens has small, oval-shaped leaves that are glossy and dark green in color. The plant produces small, yellowish flowers in the spring, followed by small, hard berries that turn brown when mature. Buxus sempervirens is a slow-growing plant that is often used in landscaping as a hedge or border plant. It is also used in topiary, which is the art of shaping trees and shrubs into ornamental shapes. Buxus sempervirens is a hardy plant that can tolerate a range of soil types, including clay and sand. It prefers well-draining soil and grows best in full sun to partial shade.


Common Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree, native to Europe, western and southern Asia, and Africa. It is commonly known as the "box" and is widely grown as a hedge or topiary due to its compact, slow growth and ability to be trimmed into various shapes.

The Common Box grows up to 3-4 meters tall, but can be kept smaller through regular pruning. Its leaves are small and glossy, about 1-2 cm long, and are an attractive dark green color. In the spring, small, yellow-green flowers appear, which are not particularly showy, but are important as a source of nectar for pollinators.

The Common Box is a popular choice for formal gardens, knot gardens, and parterres, as well as for creating low, formal hedges and borders. Its compact form and dense branching make it a good choice for topiary, and it can be shaped into spheres, cones, and other sculptural forms.

Common Box is a hardy plant and is relatively easy to care for. It prefers well-drained soil, partial to full sun, and can tolerate a range of soils, including alkaline and clay soils. It is also relatively drought-tolerant once established. It should be pruned regularly to maintain its shape, and can be trimmed at any time of the year.

One issue that the Common Box is susceptible to is a fungal disease called box blight, which causes leaf loss, dieback, and can ultimately lead to the death of the plant. To prevent box blight, it is important to plant the Common Box in well-drained soil, provide adequate air circulation around the plant, and avoid overhead watering.

In addition to its ornamental uses, the Common Box has a long history of cultural significance. In ancient Greece, boxwood was used to make the musical instruments known as "auloi," and in the Middle Ages, it was used to create intricate carvings and sculptures. Boxwood was also used to create type for printing presses, and it was considered valuable enough to be traded as currency.

The wood of the Common Box is also highly prized for its durability and fine texture. It is often used to create small objects such as boxes, brushes, and ornaments, as well as for inlay work and carving. The dense, tight-grained wood of the Common Box is also used for fuel and for the production of charcoal.

Common Box is also known for its use in traditional medicine. The leaves and twigs contain chemicals that have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, and have been used to treat skin wounds, wounds, and digestive problems. The plant has also been used to treat respiratory problems, as a mild sedative, and as a remedy for headache and toothache.

Despite its many uses and benefits, Common Box is also listed as an invasive species in several countries, particularly in the eastern United States. This is due to its ability to spread rapidly and outcompete native vegetation. It is important to monitor and control the spread of Common Box in areas where it is not native, in order to protect local ecosystems.

Common Box is also valued for its wildlife benefits. It provides shelter and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including birds, insects, and small mammals. The small, yellow-green flowers that appear in the spring are important forage for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and the dense, evergreen foliage provides a refuge for birds during the winter months.

In terms of landscaping, Common Box is a great option for those looking to create a low-maintenance garden. Once established, it requires very little care, and can be left to grow naturally or trimmed into shapes. Its slow growth rate means that it won’t outgrow its space, and it can be planted in tight spaces, making it a great option for small gardens.

Common Box is also a popular choice for topiary due to its ability to be trimmed into a variety of shapes and its dense, slow-growing foliage. It is a popular choice for creating geometric shapes, such as spheres, cones, and cubes, as well as for creating animal topiary, such as elephants, giraffes, and rabbits.

It is also a popular choice for low formal hedges, as it can be trimmed to create a neat and tidy boundary. When planting a hedge, it is important to space the plants correctly to ensure that they fill in completely and create a dense, solid barrier.

In conclusion, Common Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a valuable and versatile species that is widely used in gardens and landscapes for its ornamental, cultural, and wildlife benefits. Whether used as a hedge, topiary, or as a source of shelter and habitat, Common Box is a beautiful and practical addition to any garden.


The Common Box filmed in Haigh Hall Walled Gardens, Lancashire on the 12th March 2023.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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