This species is native to the Mediterranean where it became popular in classical Roman gardens and remains essential in Italian landscapes today. It was used to develop the ancient art of shearing plants into forms that we know as topiary that later became central to both French and Italian parterres. This is the signature genus of the Buxaceae. It was named and classified by Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century to contain species native to most of Europe, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean. B. sempervirens has long been in cultivation and was the only significant species in the west until the late 19th century with introduction of B. microphylla from Japan.
The wood of box is the hardest of all European woods, and its yellow coloring made it prized by the wood engraver for carving wood blocks from which the famous old botanical wood cut illustrations were made. It's also used to make mathematical instruments.