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Sassafras albidum

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Laurus albidus
  • Laurus sassafras
  • Sassafras albidum var. molle
  • Sassafras officinale
  • Sassafras sassafras
  • Sassafras variifolium
Phonetic Spelling
SAS-ah-fras AL-bih-dum
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Sassafras is a deciduous tree that is native to eastern and central USA and is found in all areas of NC except the higher mountains. It can be found in woodlands, fields and along roadsides and has adapted to various acidic soils. All parts of the tree are aromatic. In early to mid-spring, small, bright yellow-green flower clusters are born in 2-inch stalks on separate male and female trees. Female trees produce a blue, fleshy drupe that is borne in a red cup attached to a red stalk. In the fall the leaves turn a beautiful yellow to orange to red in color.

A large taproot makes transplanting of established trees difficult. It tends to want to sucker repeatedly and will spread to form thickets. If a single trunk tree is desired, these will need to be removed. This tree prefers well-drained sandy acidic soils but will adapt to other soils if well-drained. It will grow in sun to partial shade and is drought tolerant once established.

Use this tree as a shade tree, street tree or specimen. Allow it to spread by suckers for screening.

Sassafras albidum can be pruned and kept at shrub size by cutting them to the ground every 2-3 years.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  The leaves may turn yellow while veins remain green (chlorosis) in alkaline soils. The trees can develop a variety of insect and disease problems that are generally not serious. It is susceptible to laurel wilt.  It may experience root rot if grown in wet, clay soils.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Woodland Backyard Garden Walk
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#red#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#drought tolerant#specimen#acidic soil#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fragrant leaves#nectar plant#spring flowers#fall interest#flowering tree#black walnut#showy fruits#small mammals#fast growing#privacy#NC native#nighttime garden#native garden#edible fruits#naturalizes#screening#pollinator plant#black fruits#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#nectar plant spring#food source herbage#fall color yellow#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#fall color orange#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#fall color purple#pollinator garden#audubon#moth larva#spicebush swallowtail butterfly#imperial moth
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#purple#red#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#drought tolerant#specimen#acidic soil#wildlife plant#native tree#moths#fragrant leaves#nectar plant#spring flowers#fall interest#flowering tree#black walnut#showy fruits#small mammals#fast growing#privacy#NC native#nighttime garden#native garden#edible fruits#naturalizes#screening#pollinator plant#black fruits#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source summer#nectar plant spring#food source herbage#fall color yellow#sandy soils tolerant#clay soils tolerant#food source soft mast fruit#fall color red#fall color orange#butterfly friendly#Piedmont Mountains FACU#Coastal FACU#fall color purple#pollinator garden#audubon#moth larva#spicebush swallowtail butterfly#imperial moth
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sassafras
    Species:
    albidum
    Family:
    Lauraceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans used the oils in tonics for medical purposes. Leaves and oils have been used in food products. The wood used to make furniture and boats. Oils have been used in soaps and fragrances.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North Carolina, USA
    Distribution:
    AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MO , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant supports Imperial Moth (Eacles imperialis) larvae which have one brood per season and appear from April-October in the south. Adult Imperial Moths do not feed. This plant also supports Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) larvae which have 2 generations per year from April-October. Adult Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies feed on nectar from Japanese honeysuckle, jewelweed, thistles, milkweed, azalea, dogbane, lantana, mimosa, and sweet pepperbush. Fruit eaten by quail, wild turkeys, kingbirds, crested flycatchers, mockingbirds, sapsuckers, pileated woodpeckers, yellowthroat warblers and phoebes, black bears, beaver, rabbits, squirrels, some eat bark and wood, white-tailed deer browse twigs and foliage.
    Play Value:
    Edible fruit
    Fragrance
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Heat, drought, and soil compaction tolerant.
    Edibility:
    Teas are made from roots
    Dimensions:
    Height: 40 ft. 0 in. - 70 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 40 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Irregular
    Multi-stemmed
    Pyramidal
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Female trees produce pendant clusters of .4 inch long-inch bluish-black drupes borne in red cup-like receptacles on 1 inch long red stalks. Fruit displays from June to July.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Colored Sepals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Male and female flowers appear on separate trees. The flowers (1/3 inch across) are borne on 2-inch terminal clusters before the leaves. They have no petals but have six greenish-yellow sepals. Female trees bloom more profusely than male trees. They bloom from March to April.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The medium green leaves are 4 to 6 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide and will often have 3 shapes on the tree- oval without lobes, mitten-shaped and three-lobed. The arrangement is opposite and margins are entire to lobed. Fall color is quite showy with reds, oranges and yellows.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Bark Description:
    The bark is attractive red-brown, deeply furrowed with corky ridges. Aromatic.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Bud Terminal:
    Only 1 terminal bud, larger than side buds
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Twigs are smooth, round and greenish-yellow or greenish-brown with gray lenticels. Buds are 1/4 inch long and green. Aromatic when broken.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Lawn
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Edible Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Native Garden
    Nighttime Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Understory Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Moths
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Problems:
    Messy
    Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Shown to be a weak carcinogen in experimental animals.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Safrole
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Bark