Species list


Buxus sempervirens

Box, boxwood

Box, boxwood (Eng), boj, boje, buje (Spa), boix (Cat), ezpel, ezpela, amaxatun (Baq), buxo, boxe, mirta (Glg), buxo (Por).


DID YOU KNOW...? The Spanish National Lottery balls are made of boxwood.


The box is usually a branching evergreen shrub, which if left to grow takes on the shape of a tree that can grow up to 5 m and occasionally 8 m tall. The young bark is yellowish and corky, but in adult specimens it is greyish and broken up into small platelets. The leaves are simple, opposite, leathery, and persistent. Their margin is entire and sometimes notched at the apex. Adult leaves are hairless, although young specimens are hairy at the base, as well as on the leaf stalks and twigs. They are oval to elliptical, and tend to be curved rather than flat, i.e. with the leaf blade twisted towards the underside. They are bright green and shiny on the upper side, while the underside is pale green or yellowish. In autumn they can become a characteristic orange colour due to the cold, or turn yellow in prolonged drought. They measure 1.3-2.5 cm long by 0.7-1.2 cm wide with a leaf stalk of up to 2.5 cm in length. The male and female flowers come out on the same plant, but are separated on the twigs. They are whitish, although the male flowers are stained yellow by the pollen. The fruits are capsules up to 7 mm long that display three characteristic small horns when they are still closed. They bloom at the end of winter or beginning of spring and the fruit ripen in the summer.


This species grows in river valleys and on rocky, shady slopes, on alkaline substrates. It colonises quarries as undergrowth or together with beech, pine, English oak, Portuguese oak, and holm oak. It grows from almost sea level up to altitudes of 2000 m, forming stands or copses, or is found with other plants. The intensive use of its wood means large specimens are relatively rare, but in the north it reaches tree size.


This species lives in central and southern Europe, North Africa, the Caucasus, Asia Minor and south of the Himalayas. On the Iberian Peninsula, mainly in the northern half, it is particularly associated with limestone mountains. It is very abundant in the Pyrenees and the immediate surroundings. The geographer Eduardo Martínez de Pisón, in his Cuadernos de montaña [Mountain journals], gives us a beautiful description of the boxwood's scent, “The first sign that reached me every time I went back to the Pyrenees was the smell of boxwood; […] The smell of box is the gateway to elevated landscapes, of summits with precise names”. It is rare in Galicia and Levante, and reaches the Cazorla and Segura mountain ranges.