SASSAFRAS

FAMILY: Lauraceae | GENUS: SASSAFRAS albidum

TYPE
  • Trees
  • Deciduous
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Regular Water
PLANTING ZONES
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8

Plant Details

Native to eastern U.S. Grows fast to 2025 ft. high, then more slowly to reach an eventual 5060 ft. Often shrubby in youth; with maturity, it becomes dense and pyramidal, to 40 ft. across, with heavy trunk and rather short branches. Interesting winter silhouette. Dark reddish brown, furrowed bark. Leaves 37 in. long, 24 in. wide; they may be oval, mitten shaped, or lobed on both sides. Excellent fall colorshades of yellow, orange, scarlet, and purple. Yellow flowers aren't usually showy, but clusters outline the bare branches in early spring. Male and female flowers are borne on separate trees; when the two sexes are grown near each other, the female tree bears dark blue, 12-in. berries on bright red stalks.

Sassafras is a pleasantly aromatic tree; the bark of roots is sometimes used for making tea, which has a flavor like that of root beer. The tree's volatile oil contains safrole, which is carcinogenic in animals, but extracts sold in markets for making sassafras tea are safrole free.

Performs best in well-drained, nonalkaline soil; won't take pro- longed drought. Hard to trans- plant. Tends to produce suckers, especially if roots are cut during cultivation. No noteworthy diseases, but Japanese beetles can be a serious problem in the Upper and Middle South. Deer don't seem to care for the taste of sassafras.

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