2017

 
 

Sassafras is a tree of the Laurel family. There are three species, two in eastern Asia, and one, Sassafras albidum, in North America. The American sassafras is the most important and is found from small bush size to a height of 60 feet. Typically, sassafras has picturesque branching and pyramidal form giving it an attractive poise in the home landscape.

For centuries Sassafras was grown for the medicinal properties of the fragrant roots and bark and it's tea was considered a spring tonic. The Choctaw Indians of North America dried and ground the leaves, then used them as a seasoning and thickener. Today the dried leaves are used to make filé powder (gumbo filé) which is used to thicken and flavor soups and stews. The shape of these hairless leaves can be of three different types: a smooth oval, a two lobed leaf and a three lobed leaf and all three will be found on the same tree or even the same branch. But when it comes to the garden, it’s the outstanding autumn display which makes the biggest impact. These large, five-inch leaves, fragrant when crushed, are bright emerald green throughout the summer but are transformed into amazing shades of orange, pink, yellow, red, purple and gold. Sassafras can brighten any landscape and the vibrant colors are especially prominent when Sassafras is planted as a specimen or before a background of dark evergreens.
The yellow flowers are small, but spicy-fragrant and the fruit is a blue berry on a red stem. All parts of a Sassafras are scented: leaves, flower, bark and fruit. It eventually grows into a 30 to 60-foot-tall by 25 to 40-foot-wide tree that prefers full sun to partial shade and moist acidic soil, though an established Sassafras is drought tolerant. Birds are attracted to the fruit and butterflies to the leaves. 
It grows throughout most of eastern North America and can be grown in the UK as well as New Zealand and Australia. Sassafras is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

There is another sassafras, equally ornamental, known as the Southern sassafras, or Atherosperma moschatum.

Sassafras

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