Common Box – Buxus sempervirens

Tree of the Week

28th April 2020 | Info

Common name: Common box 

Scientific name: Buxus sempervirens 

Introduction: The Common Box (Buxus sempervirens) is a slowgrowing evergreen tree that is native to the UK, Northern Morocco, Turkey and the Mediterranean region.  


Leaves: The shiny leaves of a Common Box are characteristically small, ovate and dark green in colour. They are leathery to touch and form on short, downy stems.  

[Leaves of a Common Box]

Bark: Common Box trees have smooth grey bark that develops fissures as they mature. 

Form: Common Box are small and compact yet bushy trees. 


The Common Box is monoeciousMale and female flowers that are a greeny-yellow colour grow in clusters between April and May in the leaf axils of the tree. Typically, you will find that in these clusters there will be several male flowers and one terminal female flower. These female flowers are then pollinated by the wind and develop into green capsules that later ripen into brown seedy cases.  

Growth Habit

Common Box trees are known for their slow growth but can also live for several hundred years.  

Ecological Importance

The Common Box is a popular choice for bees, and also help to provide a dense and sheltered habitat for an array off small birds, mammals and insects.  

Properties of Common Box Wood and its Uses

Common Box wood is a dense and heavy wood that is finely textured and yellow in colour. It is a popular choice for wood engraving and has also been known to be used to make musical instruments. 

Styling of Common Box/Where to Find Them

Wild Common Box can typically be found in Surrey (namely on Box Hill which was named after the tree), or in the North Downs, Cotswolds and the Chilterns. Otherwise, Common Box are a popular hedge plant/topiary tree and can be found in many parks and gardens across the country. 

Associated Pests and Diseases

Unfortunately, the Common Box is susceptible to the Box Blight, a fungal disease that can cause dieback and bare patches to form on the Common Box. They can also be affected by the Box Sucker which can hinder their growth, and also the Box Tree Caterpillar which can completely defoliate Common Box trees. 


Interesting Facts

While all the tree is Toxic, the Common Box does, in fact, contain steroidal alkaloids and flavonoids which have been used for many years for medicinal purposes.  


Pruning and Pruning Qualities: As Common Box trees are mainly used as hedging trees/shrubs, it goes without saying that pruning is required for them to maintain their attractive shapes and aesthetic appearances. However, because they are slowgrowing trees, this does mean that pruning is only needed periodically for this purpose. Additionally, while this is the case in terms of appearance, it is important that you also prune out any unhealthy shoots, dead or diseased branches too. You should do this as and when you spot them to maintain the health of your tree als– especially as these trees are prone to many pests and diseases! 

The time to carry out your pruning will typically depend on the outcome that you want to achieve.  

Generally speaking, it is advised that you prune Common Box trees before they go into their new growth cycle, which is typically around mid-spring, as to reduce the risk of damage from frost. It also means that any pruning scars that have been obtained through the process can get covered, helping to maintain the aesthetics of the tree. 

However, these time frames are guidelines, and you may find that your Box tree continues to flower past mid-spring. In this instance, it is then recommended that you prune straight after this finishes 

For mature box trees, the ideal pruning time suggested is between May and August as this is when new growth is likely to have hardened which will also help you to minimise any damage or disease that may occur.  

Common Box trees also respond well to hard pruning which can be ideal for trees that have an unruly nature. 

Additionally, your pruning choices should also consider the ages of your trees, Young Box trees only require little trimming, and if you want to encourage bushy growth, then this can also be done at this stage too 

Please note – if you are ever in doubt about what your tree may need, or are unsure on how to carry out any tree work of your own, always consult your local tree surgeon. They will be able to advise you on what will be needed and also be able to carry out the work efficiently and safely for you. You can find your local tree surgeon here 

Growth Rate after Pruning: Hard pruning can encourage new and bushy growth, especially with young Box trees.  

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