Tree of the week No.3: The shapely Jasmine Box

At Bagshot Railway Station there’s a shapely Jasmine Box tree, sometimes also known as evergreen privet whose proper name is Phillyrea latifolia. It’s an uncommon tree in the UK, and so Bagshotians should be pleased to have an easily accessible mature specimen. The tree is protected by a Tree Preservation Order. While uncommon it’s sold by nurseries as a shrub, given its slowing growing nature.

It’s a member of the olive family, and was introduced to the UK from the Mediterranean in 1597 by the herbalist John Gerard. It was first planted in gardens belonging to the Earl of Essex. In the formal gardens of the 17th century it was clipped and trimmed by topiarists, though now seems to have, sadly, fallen out of favour.

The tree flourishes in the UK’s wetter climate and fertile soils than in its native Mediterranean habitat. It benefits from a being allowed to grow freely to achieve its wide rounded shape. It’s a robust tree, happy in most soils and in a coastal setting, and is suitable for hedging.

Identification:

  • A roundly shaped little evergreen tree, growing to 9m [30ft] in the UK.
  • Densely leaved, with leaves that are dark green and glossy on top, with shallow teeth to the leaf edges.
  • The bark is dark grey, and lightly ridged.
  • Small greenish-white flowers appear in May-June.
  • Small round fruits, containing a single seed, turn purple and eventually black.

Other notable specimens in UK [some taken from Architectural Plants tree web page]

  • The Vyne (National Trust), in Hampshire
  • Ickworth House (National Trust), Suffolk
  • By the war memorial in Trumpington south of Cambridge
  • The Washington roundabout on the A24, West Sussex
  • Outside the church in Chideock, Dorset

Images of Jasmine Box at Bagshot Station, Surrey [ click on images to expand]

  • Mature tree
  • Greyish, lightly ridged bark
  • Leaves on tree
  • Close-up of leaves on a twig

Further information sources:

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