Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Flowers

Habitat.—In various soils and situations; sandy or rich woods, along the borders of peaty swamps. USDA 4-9

Habit.—Generally a shrub or small tree but sometimes reaching a height of 40-50 feet and a trunk diameter of 2-4feet; attaining a maximum in the southern and southwestern states of 80-100 feet in height and a trunk diameter of 6-7 feet; head open, flattish or rounded; branches at varying angles, stout, crooked, and irregular; spray bushy; marked in winter by the contrasting reddish-brown of the trunk, the bright yellowish-green of the shoots and the prominent flower-buds, in early spring by the drooping racemes of yellow flowers, in autumn by the rich yellow or red-tinted foliage and handsome fruit, at all seasons by the aromatic odor and spicy flavor of all parts of the tree, especially the bark of the root.

Bark.—Bark of trunk deep reddish-brown, deeply and firmly ridged in old trees, in young trees greenish-gray, finely and irregularly striate, the outer layer often curiously splitting, resembling a sort of filagree work; branchlets reddish-brown, marked with warts of russet brown; season’s shoots at first minutely pubescent, in the fall more or less mottled, bright yellowish-green.

Winter Buds and Leaves.—Flower-buds conspicuous, terminal, ovate to elliptical, the outer scales rather loose, more or less pubescent, the inner glossy, pubescent; lateral buds much smaller. Leaves simple, alternate, often opposite, 3-5 inches long, two-thirds as wide, downy-tomentose when young, at maturity smooth, yellowish-green above, lighter beneath, with midrib conspicuous and minutely hairy; outline of two forms, one oval to oblong, entire, usually rounded at the apex, wedge-shaped at base; the other oval to obovate, mitten-shaped or 3-lobed to about the center, with rounded sinuses; apex obtuse or rounded; base wedge-shaped; leafstalk about 1 inch long; stipules none.

Flower.—Early Spring. Appearing with the leaves in slender, bracted, greenish-yellow, corymbous racemes, from terminal buds of the preceding season, sterile and fertile flowers on separate trees,—sterile flowers with 9 stamens, each of the three inner with two stalked orange-colored glands, anthers 4-celled, ovary abortive or wanting: fertile flowers with 6 rudimentary stamens in one row; ovary ovoid; style short.

Fruit.—Generally scanty, drupes, ovoid, deep blue, with club-shaped, bright red stalk.

Horticultural Value.—Adapted to a great variety of soils, but prefers a stony, well-drained loam or gravel. Its irregular masses of foliage, which color so brilliantly in the fall, make it an extremely interesting tree in large plantings, but it has always been rare in nurseries and difficult to transplant; suckers, however, can be moved readily. Propagated easily from seed.

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)