A very hardy tree with aromatic roots, twigs and bark. Its oil is used for flavoring and in soaps and lotions. The three different shapes of the leaves make the tree unique and has beautiful form and fall color.

Sassafras albidum is a deciduous tree, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia. It grows from 30–59 ft tall and spreads 25–39 ft. The trunk grows 28–59 in. in diameter. The largest sassafras tree in the US is over 100 feet high and 21 feet in circumference. 

The smooth, orange-brown bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, hard, and sometimes brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant.

The species are unusual in having three distinct leaf patterns on the same plant, unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three-pronged); rarely the leaves can be five-lobed. They have smooth margins and grow 2 ¾ - 8 inches long by 2-4 inches broad. The young leaves and twigs produce a citrus-like scent when crushed. 

The tiny, yellow flowers are five-petaled, and bloom in the spring, with male and female flowers on separate trees. (The Male flower is on the left the female is on the right.) 

The fruit are blue-black, egg-shaped, 1/3 inch long, produced on long, red-stalked cups, and mature in late summer. The fruits are an important food source for birds. Dispersal of seeds is due to birds that swallow them. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds and some small mammals. 

Sassafras leaves and twigs are consumed by white-tailed deer in both summer and winter. Sassafras leaf browsers include groundhogs, marsh rabbits, and American black bears. Rabbits eat sassafras bark in winter. American beavers will cut sassafras stems. 

Steam distillation of dried root bark produces an essential oil that once was extensively used as a fragrance in perfumes and soaps, in food and for aromatherapy. The dried and ground leaves are used to make filé powder, an ingredient used in some types of gumbo. The roots of sassafras can be steeped to make tea which can be used as an anticoagulant. Some sassafras root extracts are widely used commercially in teas and root beers.
Sassafras Tree

Sassafras Bark

Sassafras Leaves

During the establishment of the Virginia Colony, including Jamestown in the 17th century, sassafras was a major export commodity to England. A medicinal root and a wood prized for its beauty and durability, sassafras was popular from its first import by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1602 until the 18th century. During a brief period in the early 17th century, sassafras was the second-largest export from America behind tobacco. Additionally, throughout history, sassafras wood has been found to be an excellent fire-starter because of the flammability of its natural oils.

Sassafras in Autumn              Sassafras Blooms              Sassafras Berries


1. "Sassafras." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

2. Sassafras Leaves (2010) Digital Image. The Dirt Doctor. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

3. Ittiz. Male and Female Sassafras Flowers. (2012) Digital Image. Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

4. Schutt, John Dr. Bark (2001) Digital Image. Fox Island Alliance. Web. 20 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

5. Sassafras Fruit. (n.d) Digital Image. Meridian Community Union School district #15. Web 20 Sept. 2012.

6. Sassafras Tree (2001) Digital Image. Tree-pictures. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from:

7. Sassafras Tree in Autumn (2001) Digital Image. Tree-pictures. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. Retrieved from: