Common Box

©Peter Billinghurst

Common Box

Scientific name: Buxus sempervirens
Common Box grows in woodlands and scrub in Southern England, with notable populations in the Chilterns, Cotswolds and North Downs. A familiar evergreen tree, it has shiny, dark green, oval leaves.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 6m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

Although not widespread, where Common Box does occur, it can often be in large numbers and can live for several hundred years. Found in Southern England, Box Hill in Surrey is probably the best-known population in the UK. It thrives on hillsides, and in woodlands and scrub; cultivated forms are used as ornamental and hedging plants in gardens, are often clipped into impressive examples of topiary.
In April and May, both the female and male flowers can be seen on the same plant. Pollinated by the wind, each female flower dries, becoming a green capsule and then, finally, a brown, woody seed case. Common Box is popular with bees and provides a dense, sheltered habitat for small birds, mammals and insects.

How to identify

Common Box has smooth, grey bark and stems that are green and downy. The dark green, shiny leaves are small and oval shaped, with a leathery feel and short stalks. Greeny-yellow flowers grow in clusters in the leaf axils, and eventually turn into brown, woody seed cases.

Distribution

Found in Southern England.

Did you know?

Box is used to make violin pegs and musical instruments.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves sympathetically for the benefit of all kinds of wildlife. A mix of coppicing, scrub-cutting, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland 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 woodland plants.