Common boxwood

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Common boxwood
Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Common boxwood ( Buxus sempervirens )

Class : Bedecktsamer (Magnoliopsida)
Order : Boxwood (Buxales)
Family : Box trees (Buxaceae)
Genre : Box trees ( Buxus )
Type : Common boxwood
Scientific name
Buxus sempervirens

The ordinary book tree ( Buxus sempervirens ), even boxwood or book called, is a plant from the genus of the boxwood ( Buxus ). He is in South West Europe , Central Europe , North Africa and West Asia home.

Origin of name

The name comes from Latin buxus from Greek pýxos , the name used by Theophrastus for a plant that was later interpreted as boxwood. Theophrastus was ambiguous in his description and his manuscripts have been lost.

The heavy boxwood is valued in turnery to this day , and the ancient Roman writer Pliny reported that boxes and boxes were made from the wood of the boxwood. It is therefore assumed that the terms Büchse , box ( English ) and boîte ( French ) developed from pyxis .

For the common box tree exist or existed, in some cases only regionally, the other German-language trivial names : Bosbaum ( Middle High German ), Bossebaum (Middle High German), Boyschebaum, Buchs ( Graubünden ), Buchsboum ( Old High German ), Buschbom ( Altmark , Mecklenburg , Pomerania ) , Bussbom (Mecklenburg, East Friesland ), Buxbaum, Palm ( Eifel , East Friesland, Switzerland ), Palmenberg (Eifel), Pikesbum ( Transylvania ), Poxbaum (Middle High German), Puchsbaum (Middle High German) and Puhs (Old High German), Katzepissbäumche (Westerwald).


Buxus matured to a tree (estimated height about 6 meters)

Vegetative characteristics

The boxwood grows very slowly as an evergreen shrub or rarely a small tree . It usually reaches heights of growth of up to 8 meters; in the subtropical distribution area it also reaches heights of growth of up to 20 meters. It forms short, angular branches that stand up at an angle. The bark of the twigs is olive green and hairy at first, but later it becomes bald.

The constantly against arranged on the branches leaves are tight. The simple leaf blades are 1 to 2.5 centimeters long and about half as wide and ovoid to oblong-elliptical. The upper side of the leaf is glossy dark green and the underside is significantly lighter and matt. The leaf margin is bent down.

Generative characteristics

The boxwood is single-sexed ( monoecious ). From March to May, inconspicuous, yellowish, fragrant clusters of flowers appear in the leaf axils . Each ball usually consists of a terminal female flower and several lateral male flowers. There is no corolla , there are only several very small bracts and sepals. The female flowers have three styles , each with a two-part stigma, the male flowers each have four stamens .

In September, the approximately 8 millimeter long, three-lobed capsule fruits split and each sprinkle two black, shiny seeds.

The number of chromosomes is 2n = 28.


The flowers produce abundant nectar and pollen and are therefore often visited by bees and flies. The beech tree is an important bee pasture because of its flowering early in the year .

The scent of the seed warts attracts ants that carry the seeds away ; This means that the boxwood - together with the broom - is one of the few Central European trees whose seeds are spread by ants ( myrmecochory ).


The box tree prefers an oceanic climate. Its original distribution area extends in a north-westerly direction from the Mediterranean via France to southern England. In an easterly direction it can be found as far as Northern Iran . In Europe it occurs in two main areas, on the one hand from southwest France to northern Spain, on the other hand in the Balkans . Other wild occurrences are single areas. Original locations can only be found in Germany in the Buchswald near Grenzach ( district of Lörrach ) and on the Moselle, for example in the Kehrbachtal of Löf . On the Moselle it thrives in the association Aceri monspessulani-Quercetum, otherwise in Buxo-Quercetum from the Association Quercion pubescenti-petraeae.

The box was and is often planted as an ornamental and useful wood and, as a garden refugee, occasionally occurs overgrown.

The box tree as a garden plant

Box trees as ornamental plants in a garden near Bern- Riedbach.

Due to mutations and after centuries of selection , today more than 60 Buxus sempervirens varieties can be differentiated, primarily on the basis of leaf color, leaf spacing, leaf size, leaf shape, growth habit and growth speed.

The boxwood plays an important role in gardening . He was already known to the Greeks; the Romans framed their garden beds with low box hedges. Archaeological finds in Great Britain show that the Romans also cultivated this type of garden design in the areas they conquered in Central and Western Europe. Whether this tradition continued when they lost the territories they had conquered during and after the migration period has not yet been fully clarified. In the 13th century Albertus Magnus documented the cultivation of the box tree in Germany. Exact source is missing! In 1485, Leon Battista Alberti , inspired by Pliny the Younger, wrote in his book De re aedificatoria about the Buxus as a garden plant.

It was only Claude Mollet , Henry IV's court gardener, who really introduced the boxwood and used the hardy plant as a border in Versailles , where it had previously only served as background planting in the grottos . It replaced the cypress that was taken over from Italy and did not withstand the French winter. The French nobility soon imitated the model of this parterre . His son André Mollet introduced the box hedges in the Netherlands, where he designed the garden of the governor Prince Friedrich Heinrich of Orange and his wife Amalie zu Solms-Braunfels in Honselaarsdijk . In the French and Italian palace gardens of the Renaissance , the cut, low box trees became an indispensable and typical element; increasingly they came into fashion in Central Europe. Wealthy citizens and farmers imitated this fashion, so that the traditional cottage gardens still have boxwood edging to this day.

The use of the boxwood as a garden plant continued during the Baroque period (see topiary ), at the same time varieties with variegated leaves became increasingly popular.


Habitat in Corsica

The boxwood is usually propagated by cuttings , because the cultivation from seeds is very tedious (see plant propagation ). Twigs at least ten centimeters long are used as cuttings, the lower two thirds of which are defoliated and stuck into the ground. Cuttings are taken in late summer; August cuttings form roots before winter.


Although almost all Buxus sempervirens varieties are robust, fungal infections occasionally occur. These are particularly noticeable when the population is close in hedges or borders. The susceptibility of the stand increases with soil and foliage moisture. With all diseases, the complete removal of the infected parts of the plant is advisable; these do not belong in the compost, but should be burned. If necessary, the floor may even have to be replaced. Sufficiently aerated stands, cutting back suspicious parts of plants and giving copper sulphate are considered preventive measures .

  • Shoot death: Infestation by Cylindrocladium buxicola . The leaves and young shoots turn dark brown to black at the infected areas. Initially, the infected parts of the plant dry up; the plant usually dies in its entirety. The fungus also penetrates through uninjured leaves and can exist for years in dead plant parts and in the soil (compost). There is a tendency to infest whole plantings.
  • Boxwood cancer : infestation by Volutella buxi . Typical for the disease are dull green discoloration of leaves (the leaf loses its shine) and a reddish to orange-colored spore coating on the underside of the diseased leaves. Shoots and branches of older plants die, growths and cracks appear in the bark as the wood becomes visible. There is no tendency towards mass infestation; often only individual plants are infested.
  • Box wilt: infestation with Fusarium buxicola . Typical is the brown discoloration and the slow, leathery drying of individual shoots or the whole plant. Again, only individual plants are often affected.
  • Box tree defoliation: Infestation by the box tree moth .

Toxicity and healing power

Flower clusters with a female flower in the middle, including several male ones

The boxwood is poisonous in all parts; it contains around 70 alkaloids , including cyclobuxin D. Leaves and bark have a total alkaloid content of three percent.

Boxwood was already used in antiquity against coughs, stomach and intestinal diseases and against recurring fevers such as malaria . Allegedly, boxwood is comparable to quinine as a malaria remedy . Nowadays boxwood is rarely used as a medicinal herb because of its toxicity , as the dosage is problematic. Overdosing leads to vomiting and convulsions up to death.

Use of the wood

Adam and Eve made of boxwood, carved in 1504 by Hans Wydyz . Today in the Basel Historical Museum

Boxwood is valued for its hardness, density (0.9–1.03 g / cm³) and approximate homogeneity, which is unsurpassed in Europe, and is popular for turning. It is still used today in woodwind instrument making , violin making (pegs, end buttons, tail and chin rests) and for chess pieces . Before the introduction of lithographic and phototechnical reproduction processes, the printing blocks for wood engravings and woodcuts were preferably cut out of it, especially in letterpress printing , whereby the polished end- grain side was processed as with steel or copper engraving and used for the finest detailing and durability. Even the cleaning wooden watchmaker is usually made of boxwood.

Because of its hardness, boxwood was already used by Neanderthals to make grave sticks 171,000 years ago .

The hardness of the wood is not insignificantly related to the extremely slow growth of the tree. Boxwood is therefore very scarce and expensive to this day.


On Palm Sunday, Catholics decorate the crosses of their homes and the crosses of the Herrgottswinkel with consecrated branches of the box tree. Box tree branches are occasionally used instead of fir branches for Advent wreaths and Christmas decorations. In the Netherlands, box branches were hung over stoves and on stable doors at Easter.

For Honoré de Balzac , the boxwood (French buis ) stands for “mesquinerie provinciale”, rural narrow-mindedness (cf. his work Eugénie Grandet ).

In China , the box tree is a symbol of longevity.

Different cultivars

  • Buxus sempervirens 'Blauer Heinz' best low, compact growing variety, height up to 0.6 m, leaves intensely blue-green when shoots.
  • Buxus sempervirens 'Handsworthiensis', stiffly upright growth, becomes 2 to 3 m high, leaves are up to 4 cm long.
  • Buxus sempervirens 'Rotundifolia' (round-leaved boxwood), grows upright, densely bushy, broadly conical, also tree-like, becomes 2 to 3 m high and 1.5 to 2 m wide, the leaves are ovate to round and 3.5 cm long.
  • Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' (edging boxwood), stiffly upright, densely branched growth, height up to 1 m, width up to 80 cm, leaves up to 1 cm wide.


  • Marianne Beuchert , Maria-Therese Tietmeyer (illustrations): Symbolism of plants. From columbine to cypress. Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-458-16738-2 .
  • Jenny Hendy, Steven Wooster (photos): Buchs & Co, topiary in the garden . Christian, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-86244-153-2 .
  • Heinz-Dieter Krausch : Kaiserkron and red peonies ... Discovery and introduction of our garden flowers. Dölling and Galitz, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-935549-23-7 .
  • Gerda Tornieporth: Box varieties, care, topiary, design. BLV, Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-8354-0500-4 .
  • Gerda Tornieporth, Rudolf Wittmann (photographer): The big book from the book. Types, use, topiary and the most beautiful design examples from public and private gardens . BLV, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-405-16808-2 .
  • Harry van Trier, Didier Hermans, Hugo Maertens (photos): Buchs (original title: Buxus , translated by Suzanne Voogt). Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-8001-5167-7 .

Web links

Commons : Common boxwood ( Buxus sempervirens )  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Buchs  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Boxwood  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Friedrich Kluge , Alfred Götze : Etymological dictionary of the German language . 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka , De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1967; Reprint (“21st unchanged edition”) ibid 1975, ISBN 3-11-005709-3 , p. 107 ( book ).
  2. ^ Georg August Pritzel , Carl Jessen : The German folk names of plants. New contribution to the German linguistic treasure. Philipp Cohen, Hannover 1882, p. 70 f.
  3. a b c Dietmar Aichele, Heinz-Werner Schwegler: The flowering plants of Central Europe . 2nd Edition. tape 3 : Evening primrose plants to reddish plants . Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-440-08048-X .
  4. a b c d Oskar Sebald, Siegmund Seybold, Georg Philippi (ed.): The fern and flowering plants of Baden-Württemberg . tape 4 : Special part (Spermatophyta, subclass Rosidae): Haloragaceae to Apiaceae . Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart (Hohenheim) 1992, ISBN 3-8001-3315-6 .
  5. a b Erich Oberdorfer : Plant-sociological excursion flora for Germany and neighboring areas. 8th edition. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3131-5 . Page 640.
  6. data sheet Buxus sempervirens in
  7. Bees on flowering boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) on
  8. ^ Arend Jan van der Horst: Art of the formal garden. Cassell & Co., London, 1995, ISBN 0-304-34742-6 , p. 11.
  9. a b c Arend Jan van der Horst: Art of the formal Garden. Cassell & Co., London, 1995, ISBN 0-304-34742-6 , p. 75.
  10. Propagating box trees by cuttings ,, July 7, 2016
  11. ↑ Boxwood dying in Benrath Palace Park
  12. Cylindrocladium buxicola, a new boxwood disease in Bavaria. Bavarian State Institute for Agriculture
  13. ^ Fungal diseases on boxwood. S. 2. Berlin Plant Protection Office ( Memento of the original dated November 6, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 395 kB)  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. Book diseases. Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil Research Station (ACW) ( Memento of the original from May 18, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . (PDF) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. The box tree moth. Agricultural Technology Center Augustenberg (PDF)
  16. On the toxicity of the boxwood.
  17. ^ Henri Leclerc: Histoire du buis. In: Janus 26, 1922, pp. 1-14.
  18. Wood data at .
  19. Biancamaria Aranguren et al .: Wooden tools and fire technology in the early Neanderthal site of Poggetti Vecchi (Italy). In: PNAS . Online advance publication of February 5, 2018, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1716068115
    Could these be the oldest Neandertal tools made with fire? On: of February 5, 2018.
  20. AuGaLa - Plant Book . 5th edition. tape 1 .