Though frequently met with in parks and ornamental
grounds, there are only a few places in this country
where the Box is apparently indigenous. These
are the counties of Surrey, Kent, Buckingham and
Gloucester. On the famous Box Hill, near Dorking,
in Surrey, it may be seen attaining its proper
proportions as a small tree, and in sufficient
abundance to form groves covering a considerable
area. Box Hill is in no sense a plantation; its
slopes and summit are clothed with a natural mixed
wood of Box, Oak, Beech and Yew.
The Box grows to a height of twenty or thirty
feet with a girth of about three feet. Its slender
branches are clothed with small, oblong, leathery
leaves, about an inch in length, polished on the
upper side, evergreen, and opposite.
The flowers may be looked for from January to
May, and will be found clustered between the leaf
and the stem. They are quite small and inconspicuous,
of a whitish-green colour, and the sexes are in
separate flowers. The uppermost one in the centre
of each cluster is a female flower; the others
are males. The males consist of four sepals, enclosing
a rudimentary ovary, from beneath which springs
four stamens. The sepals of the female flower
vary in number, from four to twelve, and enclose
a rounded ovary with three styles, which are ripe
and protruded before the males open. This develops
into the three-celled capsule with three diverging
beaks, which correspond with the styles, and in
each cell there are one or two black seeds.
The growth of the tree is very slow, and, in consequence,
the grain of the wood is very fine. It is also
very hard, and so heavy that, alone among our
native woods, it will not float in water.
On account of its fine grain and hardness, it
is in request by the wood-turner and mathematical
instrument maker, and was formerly largely prepared
for use by the wood-engraver for “wood-cuts”.