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Buxus sempervirens

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Buxus sempervirens, the common box, European box, or boxwood, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Buxus, native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia, from southern England south to northern Morocco, and east through the northern Mediterranean region to Turkey.<ref name=rushforth>Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins Template:ISBN.</ref><ref name=fe>Flora Europaea: Buxus sempervirens</ref><ref name=bt>British Trees: Buxus sempervirens</ref> Buxus colchica of western Caucasus and B. hyrcana of northern Iran and eastern Caucasus are commonly treated as synonyms of B. sempervirens.<ref name=GRIN>Template:GRIN</ref><ref name=mc>Med-Checklist: Buxus colchica</ref>

Description

Buxus sempervirens is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to 1 to Template:Nowrap (3 to Template:Nowrap) tall, with a trunk up to Template:Convert in diameter (exceptionally to 10 m tall and 45 cm diameter<ref>Tree Register of the British Isles</ref>). Arranged in opposite pairs along the stems, the leaves are green to yellow-green, oval, 1.5–3 cm long, and 0.5–1.3 cm broad. The hermaphrodite flowers are inconspicuous but highly scented, greenish-yellow, with no petals, and are insect pollinated; the fruit is a three-lobed capsule containing 3-6 seeds.<ref name=rushforth/><ref name=bt/>

Distribution and habitat

The species typically grows on soils derived from chalk, limestone, usually as an understorey in forests of larger trees, most commonly associated with European beech (Fagus sylvatica) forests, but also sometimes in open dry montane scrub, particularly in the Mediterranean region. Box Hill, Surrey is named after its notable box population, which comprises the largest area of native box woodland in England.<ref name=afm>Mitchell, A. F. (1974). A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. Collins Template:ISBN</ref><ref name=bean1>Bean, W. J. (1976). Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles 8th ed., vol. 1. John Murray Template:ISBN.</ref>

The species is locally naturalised in parts of North America.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Cultivation

Box topiary in the garden of Alden Biesen Castle, Belgium

In Britain, four Roman burials featured coffins containing sprays of the evergreen box, a practice unattested elsewhere in Europe. Box leaves have also been found from several towns, villas and farmsteads in Roman Britain, indicating ornamental planting. <ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

Box remains a very popular ornamental plant in gardens, being particularly valued for topiary and hedges because of its small leaves, evergreen nature, tolerance of close shearing, and scented foliage. The scent is not to everyone's liking: the herbalist John Gerard found it "evill and lothsome" and Daniel Defoe recounts that at Hampton Court Palace Queen Anne had the box hedging removed because she found its odour offensive.<ref>Defoe, A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724), noted in Todd Longstaffe-Gowan and Vivian Russell, The Gardens and Parks at Hampton Court Palace (2005:87); the authors suggest that simplification of the Dutch designs to suit an English taste for plain lawn and gravel was the major motive (pp 84ff).</ref>

Several cultivars have been selected, including 'Argenteo-variegata' and 'Marginata' with variegated foliage; such "gilded box" received a first notice in John Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole Paradisus Terrestris (1629).<ref>Parkinson asserts in his Theatrum Botanicum (1640) that the "gilded" box "hath not been mentioned by any Writer before me": quoted in Alice M. Coats, Garden Shrubs and Their Histories (1964) 1992, s.v. "Buxus".</ref> 'Vardar Valley', a slow-growing particularly hardy semi-dwarf cultivar,<ref name=rhs>Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan Template:ISBN.</ref><ref name=pfaf>Plants for a Future: Buxus sempervirens</ref> was selected in 1935 by the American botanist Edward Anderson in the upper Vardar valley and sent to the Arnold Arboretum for evaluation.<ref>John L. Creech, note in Coats 1992.</ref>

The following varieties and cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:-

Timber

Slow growth of box renders the wood ("boxwood") very hard (possibly the hardest in Europe) and heavy, and free of grain produced by growth rings, making it ideal for cabinet-making, the crafting of flutes and oboes, engraving, marquetry, woodturning, tool handles, mallet heads and as a substitute for ivory. The English engraver Thomas Bewick pioneered the use of boxwood blocks for engraving.<ref name=bt/><ref name=pfaf/><ref name=ibts>Pg.171, Lawrence, E., ed. (1985) The Illustrated Book of Trees & Shrubs. Gallery Books Template:ISBN.</ref>

Other uses

Template:Medical citations needed The leaves were formerly used in place of quinine, and as a fever reducer.<ref name=ibts/>

Buxus sempervirens is a medicinal plant used to treat many diseases. It contains steroidal alkaloids such as cyclobuxine.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref><ref>Template:Cite book</ref> It also contains flavonoids.<ref>Template:Cite journal</ref>

B. sempervirens wasn’t known for its medical use until the beginning of the 1600s.<ref>Garden, U.o.O.B. Buxus sempervirens-The Virtues. Available from: http://www.botanic-garden.ox.ac.uk/buxus-sempervirens.html.</ref> After this it was found that the leaves (containing alkaloids, oils and tannin), the bark (containing chlorophyll, wax, resin, lignin and minerals) and the oil from the wood had a medical effect.<ref>Sturluson, T. Health Benefits of Boxwood and Side Effects. 2015; Available from: http://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/boxwood.html.</ref> It then was used to treat gout, urinary tract infections, intestinal worms, chronic skin problems, syphilis, hemorrhoids, epilepsy, headache and piles,<ref>Williamson, E.M., Potter’s Herbal Cyclopaedia. 2003, Essex: Saffron Walden.</ref> but also had the reputation of curing leprosy, rheumatism, HIV, fever and malaria.<ref name=Barceloux>Barceloux, D.G., Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants and Venomous Animals. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.</ref><ref name=Rahman>Rahman, A.-u. and M.I. Choudhary, Chapter 2 Chemistry and Biology of Steroidal Alkaloids, in The Alkaloids: Chemistry and Biology, A.C. Geoffrey, Editor. 1998,</ref> For treating malaria it was used as a substitute for quinine, but because of the side effects and the fact that there are better medicinal alternatives than B. sempervirens it is normally not used any more to treat these diseases.<ref name=Neves>Neves, J.M., et al., Ethnopharmacological notes about ancient uses of medicinal plants in Tras-os-Montes (northern of Portugal). Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2009. 124(2): p. 270-283.</ref>

Homoeopathy still made use of the leaves against rheumatism, HIV and fever<ref name=Baum>Baumgärtner, B. Buchsbaum (Buxus sempervirens). Available from: http://www.natwiss.ph-karlsruhe.de/GARTEN/material/steckbrief/Giftpflanzen/buchsbaum_ph-ka.pdf.</ref> by brewing tea from them.<ref name=Ramona>Ramona, V. Pflanzenfreunde. Available from: http://www.pflanzenfreunde.com/hausmittel/fieber-senken.htm.</ref> In Turkey, where the plant is called Adi şimşir, this tea (one glass a day) is still consumed for antihelminthic, diaphoretic, and cholagogue purposes.<ref name=Baytop>Baytop, T., Therapy with Medicinal Plants in Turkey (past and present). Istanbul University Publications, 1999. No: 3255.</ref> Also, the leaves from B. sempervirens were used as an auburn hair dye.<ref name=Bown>Bown, D., The Royal Horticultural Society new encyclopedia of herbs and their uses. 2002, London :: Dorling Kindersley.</ref> The plant Buxus sempervirens has been well investigated chemically. During late 1980s, Dildar Ahmed while working on his PhD thesis under the supervision of Prof Atta-ur-Rahman, isolated a number of steroidal alkaloids from the leaves of the plant. A new system of nomenclature for buxus alkaloids was also proposed based on buxane nucleus. He also isolated a flavonoid glycoside, and named it galactobuxin based on the fact that it contains a galactose ring.

See also

References

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