Trees of Alabama and the Southeast

Lisa Samuelson, Ph.D.
School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
Auburn University

Sassafras
Sassafras albidum
Lauraceae

Leaves are simple, alternate, deciduous, very aromatic, ovate to oval, and sometimes with 1-3 lobes or "mitten-like." Young twigs are mottled red, black, and green, pubescent and aromatic. The terminal bud is yellow-green and prominent with up to four overlapping scales. Bark is dark green when young and brown-gray to red-brown, thick and ridged on larger trees. Flowers are yellow in early spring and the fruit is a dark blue drupe on a red stalk. Form is usually up to 15 m (50 ft) in height, but sometimes larger. Sassafras is found on a variety of sites in the eastern U.S. and is intolerant of shade. The wood is used for fence posts and home-made fishing rods. Oil of sassafras extracted from the roots is used in perfumes, tea and herbal remedies. Many birds and mammals eat the fruit and bear and deer browse the foliage.

Photographs by Mike Hogan.

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