Littleleaf Boxwood





Littleleaf Boxwood

(Buxus sempervirens)

Interesting Information About Plant:


The Boxwood is native to Europe and Asia.  The Boxwood is a thick shrub and a member of the evergreen family.  The Boxwood was first used in Egypt in 4000 BC.  The Egyptians planted the boxwood in their gardens and trimmed them into formal hedges.  Other cultures have used it was to make woodcuts and precision instruments. 

Littleleaf Boxwood is an evergreen shrub that is profusely branched and widely used in landscaping. There are around 70 species of boxwood shrub mostly derived from the two common boxwoods in cultivation: common boxwood and littleleaf. Littleleaf boxwood hasn’t been seen in the wild before, but has been in cultivation in Japan since the 1400’s. No one knows its place of origin, but it’s speculated that it was created by gardeners in hybridizing or has simply gone extinct in the wild.

The Boxwood in the familiar dwarfed state is a common shrub, but if it is left to grow naturally it can reach 12 –15 feet in height.  The Boxwood is the only evergreen that has ever been utilized in medicine.  The wood in its native countries is considered diaphoretic, being given as an alterative for rheumatism and secondary syphilis.  It has been found narcotic and sedative in full doses.  A volatile oil distilled from the wood has also been  utilized in cases of epilepsy. The oil has been also used for toothaches. It is also thought by some to have anti-flu efficiency and is even thought to be a complementary treatment for HIV. It was used in fevers, a tonic for stomachs, an antiperiodic, and a stimulant. It is also said that the Native Americans used the Boxwood as they used ‘Peruvian bark’. 

Various extracts and  perfumes were formerly made from the leaves and bark.  The leaves also had a medicinal purpose.  A powder made of the leaves was recommended by some writers as an application to promote the growth of the hair. The leaves and sawdust boiled in Iye were also used to dye hair an auburn color.  Dried and powdered, the leaves are still given to horses for the purpose of improving their coats.  In the past Boxwood had many purposes.  These days it is used mainly in gardening and shubery and is useful in bonsai.

Common Name(s): Boxwood

Scientific Name:  Buxus sempervirens

Family Name (Scientific and Common):  Buxacaea 

Continent of Origin:  Europe and Asia

Plant Growth Habit: Woody Shrub 

Height at Maturity:  Between 3 – 10 Feet

Life Span: Perennial

Seasonal Habit:  Evergreen Perennial  

Growth Habitat: Full Sun  OR   Shade (not particular)

Manner of Culture: Landscape Shrub-Vine-Tree 

Thorns on Younger Stem:  No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Squared   

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter:  More Than The Diameter of a Coffee-Mug 

Produces Brownish Bark: Yes  

Bark Peeling in Many Areas:  No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Patchy Bark (Squared Pattern)

Type of Leaf:  Flat, Thin Leaf  

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card

Leaf Complexity: Pinnately Compound 

Edge of Leaf: Smooth 

Leaf Arrangement: Opposite 

Leaf has Petiole: Yes 

Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet): Palmate

Leaf Hairiness: No Hairs

Color of Foliage in Summer: Green 

Change in Color of Foliage in October: No Change   

Flowering Season: Spring 

Flowers:  Tightly Clustered 

Type of Flower: Like a Grass Flower 

Color of Flower: Green  

Shape of Individual Flower:  Other (insignificant without petals)

Size of Individual Flower: Smaller than a Quarter  

Sexuality:  Male and Female on Same Plant

Size of Fruit:  Smaller than a Quarter 

Fruit Fleshiness: Dry

Shape of Fruit: Acorn-like

Color of Fruit at Maturity:  Green   

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels:  No   

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One:  Bonsai Trees

Unique Morphological Features of Plant: Flowers are born in the leaf axils and are bearely noticeable to the eye

Poisonous: Part of Plant

Pestiness (weedy, hard to control): No


Page prepared by: 

Ashley Downs & Erin Blain                 

November 2004

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© Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY 2002-2004