FIELD GUIDE TO SHRUBS

Sassafras
Sassafras albidum

Family: Lauraceae

Preferred Habitat: occurs in swamps and moist soils, often found in fencerows and along roads

Range: From Maine to Florida, Texas to Illinois and Michigan

Height: up to 18 meters (60 feet)

Leaves: simple, alternate, appear as a mixture of 3 forms resembling mittens (left and right handed), 3-lobed and an unlobed ovate to elliptic, underside is glaucous

Flowers: small, yellow and fragrant, the flowers appear before the leaves in April, and are usually dioecious, consists of a 6-parted yellow calyx

Fruit: appearing in September, the fruit is a 2 cm dark blue oval drupe that falls quickly or is eaten by birds, the red pedicels persist after the fruit is gone

Location spotted: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University

Extra information: before it was determined to be carcinogenic by the FDA in 1960, the roots were used for teas and as a flavoring for root beer