Sassafras albidum

Kingdom: Plantae

Phylum: Magnoliophyta (Angiosperm)

Class: Magnoliopsida (Dicot)

Order: Laurales

Family: Lauraceae

Genus: Sassafras

Species: albidum

Where in the OLL?

Not yet planted in the OLL. Stay tuned!

Plant growth form

Sassafras is a deciduous shrub or small tree. It is an above ground woody plant. It can be 30ft – 60ft tall and 25ft – 40ft wide.  The leaves are alternate and simple leaves; they are 3 – 6 inches long and 2 -4 inches wide. One unique feature of sassafras is that the leaves grow in three different forms, or shapes on the same plant: an oval shape, a mitten shaped leaf, and a three-lobed leaf (pictured here).

Flowers, fruits & pollinators

Sassafras flowers are unisexual. The female flower is 1 cm across and the male flower is smaller. They both come in clusters and bloom early to mid spring. They have a yellow greenish color. The male and female develop on separate trees.

Ideal location, conditions & cultural needs

Sassafras needs full sun to part shade. It likes a variety of soils, such as well-drained soil, moist, acidic, loamy soils, and also tolerates dry, sandy soils. The ideal pH range is from 6 .0 – 7.0.

Planning & maintenance

Sassafras growth rate can be moderate to rapid. If the root suckers aren’t removed the tree will spread and begin to take on the appearance of a large multi-stemmed shrub. The large taproot makes transplanting of established trees difficult. 

Cultivars & propagation

A cultivar for the Sassafras is the Birch Mountain. Through root cuttings and by seed is the best way to propagate the Sassafras.

Pests & pathogens

There are a variety of insect and disease problems which are are generally not serious.

Landscape & ecosystem

Sassafras is a great shade tree. It has desirable for fall foliage, showy bark and interesting branching.

Human uses

All parts of the tree are spicy & aromatic. It was historically used in flavoring root beer, in sassafras tea, toothpaste, gum, and mouthwash. However, sassafras trees contain safrole oil which has been found to cause cancer in rats.  Therefore, use of sassafras in commercial products is currently banned by the FDA.

Plant catalogued by Richard Bukowski
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