(Sassafras albidum)

Other Names:
White sassafras, red sassafras, silky sassafras


Lauraceae – Laurel family

Growth Type:
Deciduous tree

Can reach 65 feet tall, but typically shorter

The leaves on a sassafras tree are arranged alternately. They are green to yellow-green, and turn a beautiful yellow with red tinges at the tips in autumn. The leaves are typically ovate, or egg shaped. They are usually 4 - 6 in long and 2 - 4 in wide. They have a short, slender petiole which is slightly grooved. The leaves themselves are strange, in that there are three distinctly different shapes. These different shapes are usually all on the same branch. One leaf type is elliptical, while the second has two lobes, and the third type has three lobes. The 2 lobed leaf resembles a mitten.

Young trees and shoots have a bright yellow green mucilaginous bark that turns reddish brown with age. After the tree reaches 2 - 3 years old, it will begin to develop shallow fissures in the bark. The bark of mature trees becomes deeply furrowed.

The roots are thick and fleshy, and frequently produce root sprouts which can develop into new trees.

Flower Season:
Early spring before the leaves appear

Flower Appearance:
Flowers grow in loose, drooping, fracemes up to 2 in long. They are yellow to greenish-yellow, with five or six sepals. Sassafras typically has male and female flowers on separate trees.

The fruit is a dark blue-black drupe about 1/3 in long containing a single seed, borne on a red fleshy club-shaped pedicel 3/4 in long. The fruit ripens in late summer.

Miscellaneous characteristics:
All parts of the plant are aromatic and spicy

Sassafras grows in rich, moist, loamy, soils. When young they can handle shade, but as they mature, they require full sunlight for good growth.

Parts Used:
All parts of this tree have been used by humans for thousands of years.

Wild Food Uses:
Sassafras is used as a thickener, and a flavoring in creole cooking. File' powder is made from the leaves. Sassafras was also originally used to make root beer. I still make a similar drink every once in a while. It is one of my son's favorite things.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Miscellaneous Uses:
Sassafras wood has long been prized for fire making because of the flammable oils contained in its wood and leaves.

Medicinal Uses:
It has been used to treat wounds. Woodland tribes used to run the leaves on wounds in order to speed healing. This wonderful tree has also been shown to be effective at treating acne, urinary disorders, and fevers.

Medicinal Actions:
Alterative, Analgesic, Anti-Infective, Antilithic, Antiseptic, Antirheumatic, Aromatic, Astringent, Diaphoretic, Vulnerary

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