Phylica buxifolia

Family: Rhamnaceae
Common names: Box phylica, bukshardeblaar (Afr.)

Phylica buxifolia

This compact, rounded shrub or small tree makes a good background or screening plant and should find a place in indigenous gardens near the coast, especially as it is wind resistant.

Phylica buxifoliaThis is a dense shrub or small tree, growing to about 4 m high. Twigs are hairy and buff-coloured.
The leaves are small, ovate to elliptic and well spaced up the branchlets. They are often widest at the base and taper to a point. The leaves are 15-25 mm long, with inrolled margins. The upper surface of the leaf is dark green and rough, and the lower surface is covered with light-coloured, fine hairs. The velvety white flowers are in small, branched heads in the axils of the leaves and at the ends of the branches. It is in full flower from April to August. Flowers are followed by fruits which are velvety capsules about 13 mm in length.

The genus is confined to Africa, Madagascar and the S Atlantic Islands. Most species are endemic to the southwestern parts of the Cape Province, where many are restricted to small areas. Phylica buxifolia is endemic to the area from the Cape Peninsula (Table Mountain) to Caledon, and grows on the lower mountain slopes, often near the sea and in rocky places.

Derivation of name
: There are about 150 species in this genus. Most are shrubs with only 2 species in South Africa, Phylica buxifolia and P. paniculata, which grow to the size of small trees. The genus name Phylica is based on the greek word phyllikos, which means leafy. The specific name refers to the resemblance of the leaves to those of a box (Buxus).

Growing Phylica buxifolia

Seed can be harvested in November and December. It is best grown from seed sown in March and April into a sandy, well-drained medium.

Phylica buxifolia makes an attractive, informal hedge, but can also be lightly clipped. In flower it is an attractive addition to cut bunches of fynbos flowers, acting as a long-lasting Cape Green (plants used to complement the more showy flowers such as proteas in bunches of Cape cut flowers). This is a good plant for Mediterranean gardens which receive winter rainfall. It may require watering in winter if grown in a summer rainfall zone. Frost hardiness is unknown.


  • PALMER, E. & PITMAN, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa. Balkema, Cape Town.
  • GOLDBLATT, P. & MANNING, J. 2000. Cape plants. A conspectus of the Cape flora of South Africa. Strelitzia 9. National Botanical Institute, Cape Town & Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Berenice Carolus
Harold Porter National Botanical Garden
November 2002

To find out if SANBI has seed of this or other SA species, please email our seedroom.
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