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SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Flowering branch of Oregon boxleaf. Image by Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte,


Snyder, S. A. 1991. Paxistima myrsinites. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

Images were added on 14 August 2018.


Pachistima myrsinites (Pursh) Raf. [24]
Pachystima myrsinites (Pursh) Raf.  [60]


Oregon boxleaf
myrtle boxwood
myrtle pachistima
Oregon boxwood

The scientific name of Oregon boxleaf is Paxistima myrsinites (Pursh) Raf. (Celastraceae) [58,59].


No special status

No entry


SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon boxleaf occurs from British Columbia south into California and Mexico and east through the Rocky Mountains [24,52].

Distribution of Oregon boxleaf. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, August 14] [51].

FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods

AR   AZ   CA   CO   ID   MT   NM   OR   TX   UT

1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest
K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K018 Pine - Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K020 Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest
K021 Southwestern spruce - fir forest
K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland

205 Mountain hemlock
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
207 Red fir
208 Whitebark pine
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
216 Blue spruce
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine
224 Western hemlock
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
228 Western redcedar
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock
231 Port-Orford-cedar
256 California mixed subalpine

Oregon boxleaf is a dominant shrub in many forested and shrubland community types, habitat types, and plant associations throughout western North America. Some associates of Oregon boxleaf include Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), white fir (A. concolor), red fir (A. magnifica), hemlock (Tsuga spp.), western redcedar (Thuja plicata), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii), golden chinquapin (Chrysolepis chrysophylla), Port-Orford-cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), bunchberry dogwood (Cornus canadensis), huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.), mallow ninebark (Physocarpos malvaceus), lupine (Lupinus spp.), mountain sweetroot (Osmorhiza chilensis), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), columbine (Aquilegia spp.) groundsel (Senecio spp.), meadowrue (Thalictrum spp.), and pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) [2,13,22,25,26,34,36,39].

Publications listing Oregon boxleaf as an indicator are listed below.

 Area  Classification  Reference
CO: White River-Arapaho NF  forest and shrubland habitat types Hess and Wasser 1982
ID: Caribou, Targhee NF forest community types Mueggler and Campbell 1982
BC: Similkameen Valley  forest community types McLean 1970
northern UT forest habitat type Mauk and Henderson 1984 
OR: Wenema NF   forest plant association Hopkins 1979b
CO: Gunnison, Uncompahgre NF forest habitat type Komarkova 1986
CO: White River NF  forest habitat type Hoffman and Alexander 1983
CO: Routt NF  forest habitat type Hoffman and Alexander 1980
WA: Okanogan NF  forest plant association Williams and Lillybridge 1983
eastern WA, northern ID  forest habitat types Daubenmire and Daubenmire


SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon boxleaf is considered important forage for deer, elk, and moose [9,13,19,43,56]. Mountain sheep and grouse also browse Oregon boxleaf [52]. Livestock occasionally eat Oregon boxleaf, but it is not considered an important forage species [52,56].

The degree of use shown by livestock for Oregon boxleaf has been rated as follows [14]:

           UT        CO         MT
Cattle    poor      poor       poor
Sheep     fair      poor       poor
Horse     poor      poor       poor

Stark [46] has reported on the nutrient content of Oregon boxleaf following harvest and burn treatments in western Montana. The nutritional value of Oregon boxleaf has been rated as follows [14]:

                     UT      WY        MT
Elk                 fair    ---        poor         
Mule deer           fair    poor       ---         
White-tailed deer   ---     fair       ---         
Antelope            poor    ---        ---         
Upland game bird    poor    poor       ---         
Waterfowl           poor    ---        ---
Nongame bird        poor    poor       ---
Small mammal        poor    ---        ---

The degree to which Oregon boxleaf provides environmental protection during one or more seasons for wildlife species has been rated as follows [14]:

                     MT        UT       WY
Pronghorn           ---       poor     ---
Elk                 poor      poor     ---
Mule deer           poor      poor     ---
White-tailed deer   ---       ---      poor
Small mammals       poor      fair     ---
Nongame birds       poor      fair     ---
Upland game birds   poor      fair     ---
Waterfowl           ---       poor     ---

Oregon boxleaf root cuttings or 2-0 stock can be used to revegetate disturbed sites [38].

Oregon boxleaf is easily shaped and adapts well to both sunny and shady spots, making it ideal for an ornamental and ground cover [23,29,52].

Oregon boxleaf is not easily controlled with herbicides, possibly because of its leathery, evergreen leaves [3,21,37].

Oregon boxleaf appears to increase in logged areas compared to uncut areas in grand fir (Abies grandis) types of western Montana [1]. In general, Oregon boxleaf seems to increase following logging; however, it may not really benefit from management treatments because undisturbed shrubs may have the same growth rate as disturbed shrubs [32]. In logged grand fir/Oregon boxleaf sites of northern Idaho, Oregon boxleaf decreased for the first 7 years, then increased after 25 years to higher cover values than in unlogged areas [55].


SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon boxleaf is a native, cool-season, evergreen shrub, with maroon flowers [24]. It is low growing, reaching heights of 1 to 3 feet (0.3-1 m), sometimes spreading, and densely branched. Its leaves are oblong and glabrous. Its fruit is a one- to two-seeded capsule [40,52].


Oregon boxleaf stems can layer and root, and the shrub can be propagated easily through stem cuttings [29]. Seeds are dispersed by gravity, with no evidence to suggest they are dispersed by any other means [42].

Oregon boxleaf grows on dry to moist sites in shaded mountain areas as high as subalpine habitats, but can be found at sea level in California [29,31]. It can grow in frost pockets in steep ravines or in open woods, ridgetops, and glades [12,22,28,29]. Oregon boxleaf can occur on well-drained, shallow, gravelly soils, in clay and silt loams, and cobbly clay [22]. In British Columbia Oregon boxleaf occurs on Podzols and Regosols [36].

Elevational ranges have been listed for some western states and provinces [2,14,36,39,52]:

    from 5,000 to 10,500 feet (1,524-3,200 m) in Utah
    from 6,600 to 11,000 feet (2,012-3,353 m) in Colorado
    from 6,700 to  9,500 feet (2,042-2,896 m) in Wyoming
    from 3,500 to  7,600 feet (1,067-2,317 m) in Montana
    from 6,900 to  8,200 feet (2,103-2,499 m) in Idaho
    from 6,000 to 10,000 feet (1,829-3,048 m) in Arizona/New Mexico
    from 4,020 to  5,160 feet (1,279-1,600 m) in California/Oregon
    from 3,950 to  4,950 feet (1,200-1,500 m) in British Columbia

Oregon boxleaf is an indicator species in several western habitat types and plant communities. It is a climax shrub and can tolerate both sun and shade [23], but it usually indicates dry to moist, cool sites and well-drained soils [19]. Quaking aspen/Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)-Oregon boxleaf community types in Idaho appear to be stable but may be slowly successional to quaking aspen-Douglas-fir/ Saskatoon serviceberry community types which might be in the Oregon boxleaf phase of the Douglas-fir/pinegrass habitat type or the subalpine/pinegrass habitat type [39].

The following months have been noted for budding, flowering, and fruiting of Oregon boxleaf.

State     Buds        Flowers          Fruits       Source

CA                    May-July                       [40]
AZ, MX                April-June       June-Sept     [52]
OR, WA                April-June                     [19]
ID, MT   March-May    March-June       July-Sept     [15,42]
UT                    April-July                     [14]
CO                    May-July                       [14]
WY                    June-August                    [14]


SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Following fire, Oregon boxleaf can sprout from buds on the taproot or from the root crown [10,35,42]. Some seedling establishment via short-term viablity seed stored on-site may also occur [49].

Small shrub, adventitious bud/root crown

Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


SPECIES: Paxistima myrsinites

Oregon boxleaf can survive low- to moderate-severity fires that do not consume the duff or raise the soil temperature too high [10]. It can, however, be killed by severe fires [9].

No entry

Oregon boxleaf usually sprouts from its root crown or from buds on its taproot following low- to moderate-severity fires [10,42].

The development of Oregon boxleaf cover following wildfire and clearcutting/ broadcast burning has been recorded for western larch (Larix occidentalis) and Douglas-fir forests in Montana [47]. Oregon boxleaf appears to have a varied response to both wildfire and broadcast burning, depending on site [8,16,47]. Stickney tracked first decade postfire succession following a severe fire in western hemlock/ Oregon boxleaf habitat type. Oregon boxleaf exhibited a steady-state frequency pattern throughout the decade, with little expansion or reduction in distribution within the study site [48,49]. Some have classified Oregon boxleaf as "neutral" in its resistance to fire, meaning that it has less than a 12.5 percent frequency increase or decrease when compared to average frequencies of those shrubs in unburned areas [53].

Nalley [41] developed models for predicting fuel loading in western redcedar/Oregon boxleaf types in northern Idaho. Brown [6] lists bulk densities of some Montana and Idaho habitat types (in which Oregon boxleaf is an indicator) for determining fuel depth. Fuel loadings and fire ratings for quaking aspen/Oregon boxleaf community types have also been listed [7].

Paxistima myrsinites: References

1. Antos, Joseph A.; Shearer, Raymond C. 1980. Vegetation development on disturbed grand fir sites, Swan Valley, northwestern Montana. Res. Pap. INT-251. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 26 p. [7269]

2. Atzet, Thomas; Wheeler, David L. 1984. Preliminary plant associations of the Siskiyou Mountain Province. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. 278 p. [9351]

3. Balfour, Patty M. 1989. Effects of forest herbicides on some important wildlife forage species. Victoria, BC: British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Research Branch. 58 p. [12148]

4. Beetle, Alan A. 1962. Range survey in Teton County, Wyoming: Part 2. Utilization and condition classes. Bull. 400. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Experiment Station. 38 p. [418]

5. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

6. Brown, James K. 1981. Bulk densities of nonuniform surface fuels and their application to fire modeling. Forest Science. 27(4): 667-683. [13269]

7. Brown, James K.; DeByle, Norbert V. 1989. Effects of prescribed fire on biomass and plant succession in western aspen. Res. Pap. INT-412. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 16 p. [9286]

8. Brown, James K.; Simmerman, Dennis G. 1986. Appraising fuels and flammability in western aspen: a prescribed fire guide. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-205. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 48 p. [544]

9. Canon, S. K.; Urness, P. J.; DeByle, N. V. 1987. Habitat selection, foraging behavior, and dietary nutrition of elk in burned aspen forest. Journal of Range Management. 40(5): 443-438. [3453]

10. Crane, M. F.; Fischer, William C. 1986. Fire ecology of the forest habitat types of central Idaho. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-218. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 85 p. [5297]

11. Crouch, Glenn L. 1985. Effects of clearcutting a subalpine forest in central Colorado on wildlife habitat. Res. Pap. RM-258. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 12 p. [8225]

12. Daubenmire, Rexford F.; Daubenmire, Jean B. 1968. Forest vegetation of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Technical Bulletin 60. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [749]

13. Daubenmire, Rexford. 1980. Mountain topography and vegetation patterns. Northwest Science. 54(2): 146-152. [7896]

14. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The plant information network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]

15. Drew, Larry Albert. 1967. Comparative phenology of seral shrub communities in the cedar/hemlock zone. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 108 p. Thesis. [9654]

16. Edgerton, Paul J. 1987. Influence of ungulates on the development of the shrub understory of an upper slope mixed conifer forest. In: Provenza, Frederick D.; Flinders, Jerran T.; McArthur, E. Durant, compilers. Proceedings--symposium on plant-herbivore interactions; 1985 August 7-9; Snowbird, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-222. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 162-167. [7411]

17. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

18. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]

19. Halverson, Nancy M., compiler. 1986. Major indicator shrubs and herbs on National Forests of western Oregon and southwestern Washington. R6-TM-229. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. 180 p. [3233]

20. Hanley, Donald P. 1976. Tree biomass and productivity estimated for three habitat types of northern Idaho. Bull. No. 14. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, Forest Wildlife and Range Experiment Station. 15 p. [12923]

21. Hann, Wendel J. 1986. Evaluation of site preparation and conifer release treatments in north Idaho shrubfields. In: Baumgartner, David M.; Boyd, Raymond J.; Breuer, David W.; Miller, Daniel L., compilers and eds. Weed control for forest poductivity in the Interior West: Symposium proceedings; 1985 February 5-7; Spokane, WA. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, Cooperative Extension: 115-119. [1074]

22. Hess, Karl; Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Grassland, shrubland, and forestland habitat types of the White River-Arapaho National Forest. Final Report. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 335 p. [1142]

23. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1961. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 3: Saxifragaceae to Ericaceae. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 614 p. [1167]

24. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 730 p. [1168]

25. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1980. Forest vegetation of the Routt National Forest in northwestern Colorado: a habitat classification. Res. Pap. RM-221. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 41 p. [1179]

26. Hoffman, George R.; Alexander, Robert R. 1983. Forest vegetation of the White River National Forest in western Colorado: a habitat type classification. Res. Pap. RM-249. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 36 p. [1178]

27. Hopkins, William E. 1979. Plant associations of south Chiloquin and Klamath Ranger Districts--Winema National Forest. R6-Ecol-79-005. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region. 96 p. [7339]

28. Komarkova, Vera. 1986. Habitat types on selected parts of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests. Final Report Contract No. 28-K2-234. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 270 p. [1369]

29. Kruckeberg, A. R. 1982. Gardening with native plants of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 252 p. [9980]

30. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. United States [Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States]. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 1:3,168,000; colored. [3455]

31. Lackschewitz, Klaus. 1991. Vascular plants of west-central Montana--identification guidebook. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-227. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 648 p. [13798]

32. Laursen, Steven B. 1984. Predicting shrub community composition and structure following management disturbance in forest ecosystems of the Intermountain West. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 261 p. Dissertation. [6717]

33. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]

34. Mauk, Ronald L.; Henderson, Jan A. 1984. Coniferous forest habitat types of northern Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-170. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 89 p. [1553]

35. McLean, Alastair. 1968. Fire resistance of forest species as influenced by root systems. Journal of Range Management. 22: 120-122. [1621]

36. McLean, Alastair. 1970. Plant communities of the Similkameen Valley, British Columbia. Ecological Monographs. 40(4): 403-424. [1620]

37. Miller, Daniel L.; Kidd, Frank A. 1982. How to write a herbicide prescription for shrub control. Forestry Technical Paper TP-82-6. Lewiston, ID: Potlatch Corporation, Wood Products, Western Division. 12 p. [3390]

38. Monsen, Stephen B. 1983. Plants for revegetation of riparian sites within the Intermountain region. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings of symposia; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 83-89. [9652]

39. Mueggler, Walter F.; Campbell, Robert B., Jr. 1982. Aspen community types on the Caribou and Targhee National Forests in southeastern Idaho. Res. Pap. INT-294. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 32 p. [1713]

40. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1905 p. [6155]

41. Nalley, Roque Nolan. 1982. Relationships of dead downed woody fuels to site and stand characteristics within the Thuja plicata-Pachistima myrsinites ht. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho. 86 p. Thesis. [10015]

42. Noste, Nonan V.; Bushey, Charles L. 1987. Fire response of shrubs of dry forest habitat types in Montana and Idaho. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-239. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 22 p. [255]

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47. Stickney, Peter F. 1980. Data base for post-fire succession, first 6 to 9 years, in Montana larch-fir forests. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-62. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 133 p. [6583]

48. Stickney, Peter F. 1985. Data base for early postfire succession on the Sundance Burn, northern Idaho. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-189. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 121 p. [7223]

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