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Sassafras albidum

Common Name(s):

  • Sassafras
Phonetic Spelling
SAS-ah-fras AL-bih-dum
Description

The Sassafras albidum and/or officinale is an ornamental, small to medium-sized deciduous tree which occurs in wood margins, fence rows, fields, thickets and roadsides. It is shrubby in youth, but matures to a dense, pyramidal tree up to 60' tall. It spreads by root suckers to form large colonies in the wild. All of the trees in a colony may rise from the same parent. The bark has brown, course ridges and cinnamon-brown furrows. 

It is Dioecious (separate male and female trees). The male trees are more showy. Greenish yellow flowers; fruit is deep blue, an ovoid drupe

To Native Americans, sassafras oils were freely used in tonics as medical panaceas. Culinary uses have included: sassafras tea (bark), root beer flavoring (root oil) and a gumbo-thickening agent called filé (stem pith). More recently, sassafras oils have been determined to contain a carcinogenic substance (safrole) and many of the former uses for the oils are now banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Large taproot makes transplanting of established trees difficult. If root suckers are not removed, this tree will spread and begin to take on the appearance of a large multi-stemmed shrub.

Regions:  Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

     Leaves:  Fall    Bloom:  Spring     Fruit/Seed/Nut:  Summer

Wildlife Value:  The Sassafras is a host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly. White-tailed deer browse the leaves and twigs. Songbirds and small mammals feast on its fruit. This tree is moderately resistant to damage from deer.

 Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  The leaves may turn yellow while veins remain green (chlorosis) in alkaline soils.

Cultivars:
Tags:
#butterflies#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#specimen#fragrant leaves#naturalize#flowering tree#showy fruits#low flammability#fire resistant
Cultivars:
Tags:
#butterflies#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#specimen#fragrant leaves#naturalize#flowering tree#showy fruits#low flammability#fire resistant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sassafras
    Species:
    albidum
    Family:
    Lauraceae
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Poisonous
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
  • Cultural Conditions:
    NC Region:
    Coastal
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Orange
    Pink
    Hairs Present:
    No
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Design Feature:
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies