Sassafras

Sassafras albidum

Sassafrass: Form - Click here for larger image
  • Family: Lauraceae

  • Shrub or medium- to large-sized tree

  • Narrow, spreading crown

  • Reaches height between 9-18m (30-60’)

All photos by Jason Biggerstaff

Leaves
Twigs & Fruiting Structures
Bark
Distribution and Uses

Leaves

  • Untoothed; in 3 patterns: 3 “fingers,” a “thumb-and-mitten,” or an egg-shape; all 3 typically present

  • Long, thin leafstalks; short-pointed bases

  • Spicy odor when crushed

  • Shiny green above; paler, hairless or slightly velvety below

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Sassafrass: Leaf - Click for larger image
Sassafrass: Fruit - Click for larger image

Twigs & Fruiting Structures

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Bark

  • Reddish-brown; thick and furrowed

    Distribution & Uses

  • Prefers moist, often sandy soils such as valleys, old fields, forest openings

  • Distribution includes most of Eastern United States, from eastern Texas north to southern Ontario, east to Maine, and south to central Florida

  • Wood was used for barrels, buckets, fuel, dugout canoes; outer root bark was used to make tea; considered cure-all for diseases

  • Sassafras oil from roots and root bark used in some soaps; used to flavor root beer; bark extract used for orange dye

  • Fruits eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, black bears; twigs eaten by whitetail deer, cottontail rabbits

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Sassafrass: Bark - Click for larger image