1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Boxwood

BOXWOOD, the wood obtained from the genus Buxus, the principal species being the well-known tree or shrub, B. sempervirens, the common box, in general use for borders of garden walks, ornamental parterres, &c. The other source of the ordinary boxwood of commerce is B. balearica, which yields the variety known as Turkey boxwood. The common box is grown throughout Great Britain (perhaps native in the chalk-hills of the south of England), in the southern part of the European continent generally, and extends through Persia into India, where it is found growing on the slopes of the western Himalayas. There has been much discussion as to whether it is a true native of Britain. Writing more than 200 years ago, John Ray, the author of the important Historia Plantarum, says, “The Box grows wild on Boxhill, hence the name; also at Boxwell, on the Cotteswold Hills in Gloucestershire, and at Boxley in Kent.... It grows plentifully on the chalk hills near Dunstable.” On the other hand the box is not wild in the Channel Islands, and in the north of France, Holland and Belgium is found mainly in hedgerows and near cultivation, and it may have been one of the many introductions owed to the Romans. Only a very small proportion of the wood suitable for industrial uses is now obtained in Great Britain. The box is a very slow-growing plant, adding not more than 11/2 or 2 in. to its diameter in twenty years, and on an average attaining only a height of 16 ft., with a mean diameter of 101/2 in. The leaves of this species are small, oval, leathery in texture and of a deep glossy green colour. B. balearica is a tree of considerable size, attaining to a height of 80 ft., with leaves three times larger than those of the common box. It is a native of the islands of the Mediterranean, and grows in Turkey, Asia Minor, and around the shores of the Black Sea, and is supposed to be the chief source of the boxwood which comes into European commerce by way of Constantinople. The wood of both species possesses a delicate yellow colour; it is very dense in structure and has a fine uniform grain, which has given it unique value for the purposes of the wood-engraver. A large amount is used in the manufacture of measuring rules, various mathematical instruments, flutes and other musical instruments, as well as for turning into many minor articles, and for inlaying, and it is a favourite wood for small carvings. The use of boxwood for turnery and musical instruments is mentioned by Pliny, Virgil and Ovid.