Common Name(s): Boxwood, Common Box, European Box
Scientific Name: Buxus sempervirens
Distribution: Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia
Tree Size: 10-25 ft (3-8 m) tall, 4-6 in (12-20 cm) trunk diameter
Average Dried Weight: 61 lbs/ft3 (975 kg/m3)
Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .68, .98
Janka Hardness: 2,840 lbf (12,610 N)
Modulus of Rupture: 20,960 lbf/in2 (144.5 MPa)
Elastic Modulus: 2,494,000 lbf/in2 (17.20 GPa)
Crushing Strength: 9,950 lbf/in2 (68.6 MPa)
Shrinkage: Radial: 6.2%, Tangential: 9.8%, Volumetric: 15.8%, T/R Ratio: 1.6
Color/Appearance: Color tends to be a light cream to yellow, which tends to darken slightly with prolonged exposure to light. Sapwood not distinct from heartwood.
Grain/Texture: Boxwood has a fine, even texture with a natural luster. The grain tends to be straight or slightly irregular.
Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores, very numerous, exclusively solitary; growth rings distinct due to decrease in latewood pore frequency and color change; parenchyma not visible; narrow rays, normal spacing.
Rot Resistance: Heartwood is rated as durable, though it can become stained with dark streaks due to fungal attack. Occasionally susceptible to insect attack.
Workability: Boxwood tends to be somewhat difficult to work in flat dimensions, though it is superbly suited for turning. Tearout can occur on pieces with irregular grain during planing and other machining operations. Boxwood has a slight blunting effect on cutters.
Odor: No characteristic odor.
Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Boxwood has been reported as a sensitizer. Usually most common reactions simply include eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.
Pricing/Availability: Usually only available in small quantities and sizes, Boxwood tends to be very expensive.
Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Common Uses: Boxwood is well-suited for carving and turning, and the tree’s diminutive size restricts it to smaller projects. Some common uses for Boxwood include: carvings, chess pieces, musical instruments (flutes, recorders, woodwinds, etc.), rulers, handles, turned objects, and other small specialty items.
Comments: It’s a shame that the term “Boxwood” has become so convoluted and confused in modern times, as there seems to be one particular wood species that has historically been associated with the name Boxwood: Buxus sempervirens. It is this species that can be considered the original, genuine boxwood.
Boxwood’s ability to hold crisp details in carvings and lathe work, in combination with its color and silky-fine texture truly make it a classic.
Other species in different genera tend to have similar appearances and working characteristics, (i.e., fine texture, hard, and heavy), and perhaps get marketed under the boxwood name, much like many woods are called by the mahogany name.
Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample and turned photo of this wood species.