Buxus is a large genus in the Buxacea family and consists of about 70 species. Commonly it's known as Box in the UK and Commonwealth countries or, in North America, boxwood. This is the family responsible for the small, evergreen hedges that are so omnipresent around the temperate world, from the largest palace grounds to the smallest suburban plot, where they are typically clipped in geometric shapes. And that is the form with which most people are familiar. There is, however, another Boxwood that is quite beautiful but rarely encountered and this is the Balearic boxwood. Not surprisingly it's native to the Balearic islands and the Mediterranean, environments noted for low rainfall, rocky slopes, heat and salt air.

Unlike common box, Balearic box is not diminutive. It's a tree that can grow to as much as thirty feet, though in cultivation it's commonly seen at 15 feet. It has a rather slow growth and a tidy, compact form with erect branches. The bark is grey with red striations. Despite its great size the leaves are typically box, that is glossy, dark green on top, paler beneath. In spring, at the axil of the leaves, greenish-yellow flowers appear, the female flower solitary and surrounded by male flowers with pollination achieved mainly by bees. These blooms are not that visually exciting but are intensely perfumed.The fruit is a globose capsule that usually contains 1-2 oblong seeds.

Its foliage renders it useful as an isolated specimen, border hedge or even as topiary as it holds up well to severe pruning, and it thrives in pot culture.

Balearic box is also tough as nails, being not at all particular to soil type, growing in sand or gravel, acidic or alkaline, provided that all are well drained. It does best in full sun but can withstand light shade.

It will do well across the southern part of the US, most of the UK and is very well suited to Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, it isn't nearly as easy to find as the common box but when a large evergreen is required, it is a splendid choice that is worth the effort to track. It is more likely to be found at the more specialized tree nurseries or by mail-order.

Balearic box


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