This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
There is no trace of this rare upland shrub in any early deposits in Great Britain. It is found from Belgium southward in Europe and in N. Africa, N. and W. Asia, as far east as the W. Himalayas, in the N. Temperate Zone. In Great Britain it is found only in four counties - Kent, Surrey, Bucks, Gloucs - and elsewhere it is only naturalized, being perhaps not indigenous in the last.
The Box in its native state is confined to hills of chalk, or oolite, where it grows in thick and lofty masses covering a wide area. Elsewhere it is found planted in woods and plantations, and is frequently used in gardens and elsewhere as a hedgerow shrub, the practice having originated with the Romans, and having been revived under the auspices of Dutch gardening.
This is an erect, arching shrub or tree, with a hard, woody main stem, with soft bark, and numerous drooping branches. The leaves are egg-shaped-oblong, with a notch at the extremity, with the margins of the leaf-stalks hairy, the leaves opposite, shining,1 leathery, evergreen. The stomata are immersed with 4 rows of palisade cells.
Photo. H. Irving. - Box (Buxus Sempervirens, L.)
The flowers are green (the plant is monoecious), in spikes in the axils, with 4 bracts below; the female flowers above the male have 4 sepals, which are blunt. The stamens are long, the anther-stalks being strong, the anthers egg-shaped, arrow-shaped. The styles are 3, spreading, not falling. The capsule is egg-shaped, wrinkled, with 6 seeds, 2 in each cell.
1 These may serve to throw off snow in winter in order to prevent the plants from being weighed down and so cause the branches to crack. Many other evergreens, as Holly and Yew, as well as the Ivy, have the same polished surface.
Box grows 8-15 ft. high. The flowers are in bloom in April. Box is an evergreen shrub, easy to propagate by cuttings, and useful for edging or Dutch gardening for parterres, etc.
Being a monoecious plant the flowers are unisexual, in heads. The female terminal flower with 3 bracts is surrounded by male flowers with 1 bract, and with honey in both sexes. There are 4 hypogynous stamens with stout anther-stalks, and the anthers open towards the centre in the male flowers. The stamens are projecting, the anthers in pairs. In the female there are 3 styles, spreading and grooved. The flowers are crowded. The stigmas mature first. The pollen is dry and dustlike. The hive bee moistens it with honey and brushes it on its hind-legs.
The fruit opens explosively, the inner layer of the pericarp separates from the outer and U-shaped, folded layer, as in the Violet, causing the propulsion, the capsule becoming dry and tense.
A cluster-cup fungus, Puccinia buxi, attacks the leaves, and Box is galled by Diplosis buxi.
Two Homopterous insects, Psylla buxi, Pinnaspis buxi, and a Heteropterous insect, Gonocerus venator, are found on it.
Buxus, Pliny, is the Latin name for the plant, and the second Latin name refers to its perennial character.
This neat shrub is called Dwarf Box, Box-tree, Bush-tree, Dudgeon. In regard to the last, which is the root or wood of Box, "Turners and cutters, if I mistake not the matter, so call this wood Dudgeon, wherewith they make Dudgen-hafted daggers", according to Gerarde.
Box was used for hedging, being easy to clip and cut, a practice in vogue since Roman times called topiary work, a friend of Julius Caesar's inventing the method. The wood is close-grained, and used for wood engraving, mathematical instruments, combs, pipes, flutes, inlay work, as in Evelyn's day, wheels, swivels, pins, pegs, nut-crackers, button moulds, weavers' shuttles, rulers, boot-trees, rolling-pins, pestles, tables, chessmen, screws, bobbins, spoons, knife-handles. The Dwarf Box was cut into animal shapes in gardens, etc. It has been used in medicine for colic, fever, madness. Corsican honey was derived from the Box, it is said.
Essential Specific Characters:275. Buxus sempervirens, L. - Evergreen tree, branched, leaves shiny, alternate, oblong, flowers in axillary clusters, anthers sagittate.