Sassafras

Sassafras albidum

Family Lauraceae


Notable Features
Leaves: Alternate* leaves are smooth and hairless, sometimes soft and hairy on the underside; not toothed*. Leaves exist in three patterns: ovate with pointed ends; a “mitten” shape with two uneven lobes* and a deep sinus*; and a three-lobed leaf with the middle lobe larger than the surrounding two. When crushed, the leaves give off a pleasant spicy scent.
Twigs: Twigs green, branched, and occasionally hairy.
Bark: Mature bark is a deep brown-red, with vertical furrows.
Flowers/ Fruit: Yellow-green flowers appear April through June and give rise to bright blue, one-seeded berries August through October.
Size/Shape: A medium-sized tree, 10 to 50 feet (3-15 meters). On the Brandeis campus, however, only immature, shrub-sized* trees exist.

Location on Campus

(click for map)

This little tree is found in numerous places throughout Sachar Woods, and to the right of the entrance to Sachar International Center from T-lot.

Uses
The roots of the sassafras tree make an excellent and aromatic tea once steeped until dark reddish-brown and sweetened. The spicy young leaves can be dried, crushed, and used as a seasoning or to thicken soups.

WARNING: A chemical in sassafras has recently been found to cause cancer in lab rats.


Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.