Sassafras- Sassafras albidum is a wonderful native tree in the Eastern United States. It ranges from southern Canada to Central Florida and west to Iowa and eastern Texas. In the north it is more of a shrub and folks there hardly think of it as a tree proper. South of the Ohio River, Sassafras can grow to an amazing size. 70′ tall and 3′ in diameter. It becomes a real forest giant. The trees are often pioneer trees that show up in fence lines and abandoned fields. Their purple berries are relished by birds that them spread the seeds far and wide.

Sassafras is a useful tree. The fragrant wood is light and rot resistant. It is often used for barn doors and farm gates. The woods grain is similar to oak and has been used and is still used as an oak substitute. It makes a good firewood that will burn wet or dry though it tends to pop and shoot embers if burned in an open fireplace.

Sassafras has been used as a medicinal and a flavoring as long as man has been around it. The wood and roots are very fragrant. It has been used as an ingredient in Root Beer. The Colonists sent loads of the roots and bark back to Europe to be used as a treatment for Syphilis ( it didn’t work ). The root has been used as a tea as a spring tonic for a very long time. There has recently been some concern that the medicinal use could be carcinogenic but the results of testing have been inconclusive.

In the yard or on the farm, Sassafras Trees are a beautiful addition. Being a pioneer tree, they will grow toward sunlight and can in a shaded location grow about any way but up. With plenty of sun and no competition, the form is usually pyramidal in youth and an open rounded form in maturity. The leaves have several forms a right handed thumb lobe, a left handed thumb lobe, a double thumb lobed and a plain old oval. Blooms are visible but inconspicuous. Trees appear to be male and female. The female trees bear a berry or drupe that briefly turns purple before the birds gobble them up. Sassafras is one of the first trees to turn and its fall color is a spectacular display of red, yellow and orange against the still green forest of early fall.

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