Sassafras albidum leaves

Family:     Lauraceae

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     10-15 m (30-50 ft)

Blooming: March- May

 

Sassafras

Sassafras albidum  (Nuttall) Nees

Stem: woody, twigs varying from hairy to not. The bark in old trees is deeply furrowed while the younger growth is greenish with gray spots (lenticels) on them.

Flowers: yellow flowers occur in a cluster on the tips of the branches. Male flowers occur on one tree while female on another (see picture below). The small yellow flowers have 6 petal-like sepals, but petals are absent. The female flowers have 6 stamens and the male flowers have 9. Those on the female flower are sterile.

Leaves: three characteristic shapes occur on the Sassafras tree. The leaf shapes are sometimes referred to as mitten, two-thumbed, and unlobed. Leaves are arranged alternately

Sun:  Full sun to shade 

Comments: Sassafras root was once used in making root beer.  Because of an oil called Safrole which is thought to be carcinogenic, digging up roots for the oil is now illegal.  Teas are occasionally brewed from the bark and twigs of the tree; however, due to Safrole, this should be used with caution.  The tree is very aromatic when wounded.  

It has also exhibited allelopathic characteristics which means that it releases a chemical that deters other plants to grow near it.

 

Butterfly/Moth host plant: the larvae use sassafras as a host:  Promethea Silkmoth (Callosamia promethea), Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis), Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus),

photos by Nathanael Pilla

Sassafras albidum tree
Young sassafras bark
Species Present and Native
Male and female sassafras flowers
Sassafras fruit by S. Sass

photo by Steve Sass