Landscaping in America

Landscaping with trees

Sassafras Tree

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Sassafras tree with it's brilliant fall foliage.

Sassafras leaf

Sassafras tree bark

Sassafras

(sassafras albidum)

Tree to 40' tall and 10" in diameter with a narrow crown.

Bark thick, gray to brown, deeply furrowed.

Twigs thin, usually greenish, smooth, glabrous.

Buds rounded, greenish, covered with four scales.

Leaves variable, entire or with 2 or 3 lobes, elliptical in outline, 3" — 5" long and 1.6" — 4" wide, shiny green above and paler below.

Flowers small, yellowish green, clustered at end of leafless twigs in early spring.

Fruits elliptical blue-black berries about 0.4" long in a red cup on a long red stalk, ripening in Fall.

Distribution: Native to about the eastern half of the U. S.

Habitat: Scattered in upland and bottomland forests, often forming thickets in abandoned fields and other disturbed areas.

Comment: The bark of the roots is used to make a pleasant tasting "tea". The powdered leaves are used in Louisiana to thicken soup. Sassafras is derived from an old French word referring to its use in medicine; albidum refers to the light-colored wood.

Sassafras is truly a tree for all seasons. It has bright, greenish-yellow flowers in early spring, brilliant red-orange leaves in the fall, green twigs in winter and an attractive horizontal branching pattern. Has been commonly used in hedgerows throughout the east where it grows from seeds dropped by birds that eat the fruit.

As a garden tree, the sassafras is both under used and under appreciated by many landscapers. It is difficult to propagate and rarely seen in nurseries. Sassafras trees spread by underground runners. In the wild a single sassafras tree will soon sprout a ring of satellite trees from its roots. This habit of growth can also be used attractively in the right garden.