The sassafras tree, (sassafras albidum) is a species of sassafras native to eastern North America, often grown as an ornamental and valued for its scent. Although young sassafras seedlings tolerate shade, older trees need full sun for strong growth. Sassafree trees have long had multiple uses, including essential oils and teas, but sassafras oils are now closely regulated by the FDA as safrole (an ingredient in the essential oils), and sassafras that’s not certified as safrole-free, have been banned in the U.S. as food additives or flavoring agents because safrole is a carcinogen.
- Alternate Common Name: White sassafras, red sassafras, silky sassafras
- Average Height: A sassafras tree is medium sized, growing to about 40-50 feet tall.
- Leaf Description: Sassafras leaves are alternate, simple, pinnately veined, ovate to elliptical, entire, 3 to 6 inches long with 1 to 3 lobes; the 2-lobed leaf resembles a mitten, the 3-lobed leaf resembles a trident; green above and below and fragrant when crushed.
- Bark Description: Sassafras albidum bark is brown, with cinnamon-brown inner bark, becoming coarsely ridged and furrowed. When cut, the spicy aroma is obvious.
- Twig Description: Twigs of the sassafras are slender, green and sometimes pubescent, with a spicy-sweet aroma when broken. Buds are 1/4 inch long and green; twigs from young plants are displayed at a uniform 60-degree angle from the main stem.
- Flowering: Dioecious; sassafras flowers are small but quite showy, both male and females are bright yellow-green, borne in 2-inch racimes appearing in early to mid-spring.
- Needle or Broadleaf: Broadleafed