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Sassafras

Sassafras albidum

Sassafras have bright green, mitten-like leaves with 2-3 lobes. (ZeNeeceC/Flickr)
Sassafras have bright green, mitten-like leaves with 2-3 lobes. (ZeNeeceC/Flickr)

The sassafras is a medium-sized, deciduous tree with bright green, mitten-like leaves. It grows in moist, open woods throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Bright green, mitten-like leaves with 2-3 lobes
  • Young leaves are reddish-pink and turn green as they grow. Leaves change to yellow, orange or red in autumn.
  • Reddish-brown, deeply ridged bark. Young trees have greenish-tinged bark.
  • Fragrant, greenish-yellow flowers that bloom in April-June
  • Grows to 50 feet tall

Habitat:

  • Grows in moist, open woods
  • Often colonizes roadsides and abandoned fields

Range:

  • Grows throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • In late summer, trees produce small, dark blue, oval-shaped fruits on top of bright red, cup-like stalks
  • Songbirds and small mammals scatter the seeds
  • Trees begin producing seeds when they are 10 years old. After that, they fruit once a year or every other year.

Other Facts:

  • Native Americans valued sassafras for its medicinal purposes, using parts of the tree to treat fever, diarrhea, measles, coughs, indigestion, nausea and colds
  • Leaves can be used as a spice to add flavor to foods and soups
  • Heartwood is often used in boat construction because it is light and durable
  • Songbirds and small mammals such as squirrels like to eat sassafras fruits

Sources and Additional Information:




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