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Sassafras albidum

Sassafras Tree

            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


A Carolinian tree with an unusual history, for from its roots we have produced Sassasfras which has been used in all manner of foodstuffs from candy to beer. A very confusing tree to identify because of the variety of leaf shapes and more a collectors tree for the larger landscape or park setting.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
4 - 9
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
H7 - H3
Temperature (°C)
(-32) - (-1)
Temperature (°F)
(-25) - 30
20 m
8 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Forms a thicket of saplings around the parent plant. It eventually forms a flat-topped tree with an irregular head and can reach a height about 20 m.
Often found as a thicket, pruning is required to produce a single stem specimen. Prefers freely draining, loamy solis that have a higher pH. Difficult to transplant because of its extensive tap root
Grows initially as a small shrub but soon turns into a thicket of saplings around the parent plant.
ID Characteristic
It is easily recognized by its mitten-shaped leafs and its intense egg-yellow autumn colour. In older specimens the bark is a red-brown colour and has deep ridges.
Sassafras is susceptible to European gypsy moths, Japanese horned beetle and sassafras weevil. 
Bark/Stem Description
Sassafras has a distinctive bark that is a red-brown in colour. Older specimens have deeply rigged bark which produces an orange dye.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
The terminal bud is solitary and ovoid with about 4–6 scales and is about 85 mm long.  The lateral buds are small and green.
Leaf Description
The leaf colour is medium-green and leaves and are mitten-shaped.  Leaves can range from 7–18 cm long and 5–10 cm wide with two-lobed or elliptical with no lobes. In the autumn they change to shades of yellow, orange or red.
Flower Description
The plant has small yellow-green flowers about 2.5 cm long and 1 cm wide. The flower appears before the leaf emerges.
Fruit Description
The Sassafras fruit ripens in September and are dark blue berries that found on bright red stalks, which are about 1.27 cm long.
Colour Description
During the summer months the leaves are medium green, during autumn months the leaves change to orange, yellow, red and purple.
Texture Description
Leaves are smooth with rounded edges, while the bark is rough in texture.
Notable Specimens
The Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Joansy's Wood, North Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada.
Seed require 4 months moist stratification at 5°C. Cuttings collected in early winter and placed under mist produce sporadic rooting. Dirr suggests a medium of 2:1:1 peat/loam/sand. It may also be propagated by root cuttings.