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Sassafras albidum

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


The sassafras has bright green, mitten-like leaves with 2 to 3 lobes. Young leaves are reddish-pink and turn green as they grow. Leaves change to yellow, orange or red in autumn. The bark is reddish-brown and deeply ridged. Young trees have greenish-tinged bark. Fragrant, greenish-yellow flowers bloom in April to June. Sassafras can grow to 50 feet tall.


Grows in moist, open woods, often colonizing roadsides and abandoned fields.


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.
  • Sassafras 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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