Box (buxus), a shrubby evergreen tree, which affords a very valuable close-grained wood. The Romans cultivated the box tree as an ornamental shrub in their gardens, and consecrated it to Ceres. The Greeks called it whence the Latin name; and as the same Greek word signifies goblet or vase, it is probable that they named it from its use in the manufacture of small cups and ornaments. B. sempervirens, the best known species, is the most northern arborescent plant of the natural order euphorbiacea, the other trees of that order being found only in mild or tropical climates. It is a native of most parts of Europe, is common from England to Persia, and attains in favorable localities the height of 15 or 20 ft., but in some rocky regions never rises above 3 ft. It has small oval and opposite leaves, male and female flowers upon the same individual, and a 3 or 4-parted calyx. Among the garden varieties is the dwarf box, much used for the edgings of walks. The wood is of a yellowish color, hard, heavy, durable, close-grained, and susceptible of a high polish. It has a specific gravity of 1.328. It is prepared for industrial uses by steeping large blocks in water during 24 hours, after which it is boiled in water, and then allowed to dry slowly, immersed in sand or ashes to exclude the air and prevent rapid desiccation.
It is much used by the turner, the mathematical instrument maker, and the wood engraver, and for certain uses no other kind of wood can replace it with advantage. It is sent in large quantities from Spain to Paris, and great quantities of a very fine quality are imported from the Levant into the manufacturing countries of Europe. The B. Baleariea, or Majorca box, is a handsomer plant than the preceding, having wide leaves, but requires a warmer climate or more careful culture. It will grow, however, in the open air, in the milder exposures of northern latitudes. It abounds on the hills of Majorca at the height of 1,500 ft. above the level of the sea, and is supposed to furnish a part of the Spanish and Turkey box wood. Box wood is sometimes used in medicine as a substitute for guaiacum, and the leaves have been employed as a substitute for Peruvian bark. The leaves have also been used instead of hops in the brewing of beer, but they give an acrid, unpleasant flavor to the liquor.
Leaves and Fruit of Cox.