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PlantFiles: Sassafras, Saxifras, Tea Tree, Mitten Tree, Cinnamonwood
Sassafras albidum

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Family: Lauraceae (law-RAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sassafras (SASS-uh-frass) (Info)
Species: albidum (AL-bi-dum) (Info)

Synonym:Laurus albidus
Synonym:Laurus sassafras
Synonym:Sassafras officinale
Synonym:Sassafras variifolium

11 vendors have this plant for sale.

48 members have or want this plant for trade.

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Category:
Trees

Height:
over 40 ft. (12 m)

Spacing:
over 40 ft. (12 m)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Danger:
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:
Deciduous
Aromatic

Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
This plant is suitable for growing indoors
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
Plant is viviparous

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds

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There are a total of 48 photos.
Click here to view them all!

Profile:

15 positives
5 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive FlyPoison On Mar 5, 2014, FlyPoison from Rock Hill, SC (Zone 7a) wrote:

Sassafras is a great plant with all season interest. I was able to transplant a sapling a few years a go and it's doing very well under the canopy a middle-aged White Oak. The deer love the saplings so I had to surround it with chicken wire until it gets large enough for them not to bother with it. I was recently able to find nice 5 gallon that's already nearly 6' tall! I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that it's a female!

Positive Rickwebb On Feb 18, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a beautiful native tree that bears wonderful red fall color in sunny locations. It usually grows about 1.5 to 2 feet/year and lives less than 100 years. A pioneer tree coming up in open fields to begin the development to climax forest of oaks, beech, etc. Sometimes it is sold by larger regular nurseries in its natural range from east TX into New England and central MO into northern FL, but not often because it is hard to transplant because of developing a taproot with coarse lateral roots. (Although I successfully transplanted some saplings about 3 to 4 ft high myself, digging them out with good root balls). Native plant nurseries happily sell it in contains from 1 to 15 gallon sizes. Some mail order nurseries sell small plants. Sassafras can often ground sucker to form a colony, so it is not desired in many refined residential yards. It is dioecious, so it is the female plants that bear the blue-purple berries for birds. The small yellow flowers in early spring are pollinated by bees and other insects.

Positive Phellos On Sep 23, 2013, Phellos from Port Vincent, LA wrote:

I love this tree very much. They are hard to transplant, and even the ones that survive and "establish" may not show signs of shock until the next season, when the entire trunk will mysteriously die to the ground. At that point in our yard, it is usually a 50/50 chance of it sending up a new trunk.

We have tried to grow close to 30 of these over the years. Now, we only have 4. Out of all of the ones that we have grown, only one ever made a small tree. Then, it died. The rest have all remained the size of a small shrub or sapling. Even ones we have bought from nurseries and planted have died back several times. Can excessive rain damage these plants? For a native tree in our area, they seem incredibly difficult to make survive and nearly impossible to make thrive.

I have also noted quite a bit of variation among different populations of this species. The ones we bought from nurseries have rougher leaves that regularly make mittens and have a faint aroma. The ones growing across the river from us have smoother leaves that occasionally make mittens and have a much stronger aroma. Both are equally touchy with water.

Positive tabasco On Nov 24, 2012, tabasco from Cincinnati (Anderson Twp), OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

We have Sassafras trees growing in the woods behind out house--interesting little trees easily identified by their strangely shaped leaves. We love to have them because they are host plants here in Ohio for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly ( Pterourus troilus). Sassafras twigs make nice sticks to grill tasty hot dogs and the essence of sassafras makes a nice jelly for our Thanksgiving table.

Positive Nora_Batty On Jun 1, 2009, Nora_Batty from North Island
New Zealand wrote:

I purchase an organic product with the main ingredient being sassafras oil. It is used as a topical application. I use it to treat a dreadful condition called flystrike which happens to my sheep. The purpose of the sassafras in the product is to kill the maggots, heal the skin and deter flies. I have found this to be very accurate. I would like to know if this tree is available and will grow in the NorthIand in New Zealand.

Positive murphyld On Mar 14, 2009, murphyld from Austin, TX wrote:

Sassafras is usually found in sandy soil that is shaded in Beaumont and surrounding areas. When I was growing up I would dig up small saplings to get the roots so that I could make sassafras tee, I would also remove the leaves and dry them in the microwave. After the leaves were dried I would put them in the blender and grind them to the consistency of dust to use as 'file' in my father's gumbo. My father said he preferred my homemade file over store bought file because mine had a fresher/greener taste.

Negative perryfan On Jun 8, 2007, perryfan from Salisbury, MD wrote:

I have to agree with pdrardin - I moved into a new home with quite a few skinny little sassafras trees in the yard, which is at the edge of a wooded area. I love the fall color, but now that we're clearing some small areas and trying to plant the yard, I have all these little saplings sprouting up, apparently in places where the contractor cut down existing trees. They suck all the water and compete for nutrients, and my new plantings have a very tough time acclimating. I hate the little suckers! If all I had were existing trees, fine - but the invasive saplings springing up from unknown depths are driving me batty!

Positive yarily_holp On Jun 2, 2007, yarily_holp from Philadelphia, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

These trees have unique, medium to large mitten-shaped leaves that smell good when crushed. In southern NJ I have seen a wild variant growing occasional four-"thumbed" leaves. Fall color can be a lovely bright yellow.

No one I know has had success transplanting existing trees -- they have a long taproot that gets broken, or else they turn out to be root-suckers that are secretly dependent on a neighboring large tree. Container-grown plants have worked, provided the roots don't get waterlogged.

The dark berries are presented on upright, red stalks to birds and other animals that like them. Sassafras is dioecious, so not all trees will fruit.

Positive claypa On Jun 2, 2007, claypa from West Pottsgrove, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

dave's picture is a female inflorescence and hczone6's picture shows the male flowers.

Negative pdrardin On May 22, 2007, pdrardin from Greensboro, GA (Zone 8a) wrote:

I'm doing my best to rid my new 'old' yard of literally dozens of unwanted & officially identified sassafras seedlings which have been extremely invasive since I cut down most of a small grove of semi-mature trees w/o removing the entire root system. Before then or since, I've not yet laid eyes on any berries, or decent fall color. Perhaps this is a different variety of sassafras (believe there's 4), or maybe it's our central GA climate? Regardless, enough of sassafras!

Neutral Bairie On Apr 12, 2007, Bairie from Corpus Christi, TX (Zone 10a) wrote:

I read that there are male trees with male flowers and female trees with female flowers; does this mean that I need to buy another tree to have berries for the birds?

Neutral tagan On Dec 19, 2006, tagan from Jacksonville, FL wrote:

This is a beautiful tree with many, many positives: its attraction to birds, bees, butterflies; its medicinal use, its fall colors, its drought tolerance and its rapid growth.
BUT it is potentially very poisonous to ingest; it has caused unwanted abortions in pregnant women and the sassafras oil is prohibited due to its contribution to liver cancer in mice.

CONCLUSION: Enjoy the beauty, but keep it away from your mouth!

Positive shaun1258 On Jun 9, 2006, shaun1258 from Asheville, NC wrote:

I love the smell of this plant, but could never figure out what it was until I came here. This tree (it's about 40 ft tall) seems to thrive in my small yard. In one year, an approximatey 20 ft radius of unmowed grass has yeilded about 10-20 seedlings, each anywhere from 2' to 4' tall. I would be tempted to call them invasive just because of the coverage I'm seeing from year to year, but if caught around the 2' stage, they seem to be easy enough to remove.

Positive sterhill On May 30, 2006, sterhill from Atlanta, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I found a number of these baby trees at my Dad's farm. Very pretty!

Positive tsmith169 On Feb 19, 2006, tsmith169 from Broussard, LA wrote:

My uncle had one of these trees in his yard. When it was time for the leaves to fall they would put a sheet on the ground to collect the leaves. Once the leaves were collected they would lay them out in his barn to let them dry. Once they were dry they would smash the leaves to a fine substance to make file' which is used in gumbo. Unfortunately the tree is now gone, it was taken by hurricane rita.

Positive Breezymeadow On Feb 1, 2006, Breezymeadow from Culpeper, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

This is one of my favorite native trees, & one that I am lucky to have many of here on the farm. We also had quite a few of them when we lived in Long Island, NY.

While they don't appear to be picky as far as soil conditions, they do prefer full sign or very semi-shady conditions, & here at least, are always found at woodland edges, rather than understory. As mentioned above, clusters of medium (as in larger than a wild or chokecherry) blackish purple oval fruits may appear on mature trees in late summer/early fall, & they are favorites of many birds - the large Pileated Woodpeckers here in particular.

It is almost impossible for me to pass one without removing one of the leaves & crushing it to release that fabulous spicy-fresh scent.

Neutral raisedbedbob On Jan 31, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Left to itself, this tree will form fairly dense colonies producing leggy, weak trees.

Positive foodiesleuth On Mar 6, 2005, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

My Cuban grandmother suggested I make a weak sassafras tea and give it to my baby son (almost 50 years ago now) when he suffered from severe diaper rash. It worked.

Positive TREEHUGR On Mar 4, 2005, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

A worthwhile tree to plant. Can be difficult to transplant (long tap root) so it's best to use small ones. Fast growth rate. Prune young trees to form a single trunk which is best for landscape planting. Listed as one of the best fall color trees to use in my region. Reportedly planting in full sun will optimize those colors. Although it's native to where I currently and temporarily reside in Orlando, FL, the nearest place that sells it is about an 8 hour drive from here. Luckily Dave's Garden offers links to sellers that have the plant and will ship it in ideal small sizes.

Positive melody On Apr 16, 2004, melody from Benton, KY (Zone 7a) wrote:

Sassafras trees grow wild in the fencerows in theis area and rarely do you see on in someone's yard. They are quite pretty with their unique leaves and lovely fall color.

Teas are traditionally made from the roots and file powder from the leaves. Use should be cautious because they have been found to potentially contain carcenogens.

Neutral aaronhammel On Jul 23, 2002, aaronhammel wrote:

The sassafras is an aromatic decidious tree that grows to between 20 and 50 ft. in height.It is native to the Eastern parts of North America and also grows in canada. The bark of the tree varies from a red to orange through to shades of brown and grey. The flowers are small and geenish-yellow and are produced in large clusters in April and May. The leaves are either oval or lobed in shape and turn a vivid red or orange in Autum. The flowers are often followed by dark blue berries, which ripen in september.

The parts that are used are the dried leaves and also the root-bark. Tea is made from the rust-brown root bark using 2 tablespoons per half pint of boiling water.

Sassafras is a stimulant and a diuretic. It has been used to treat colds and feavers by inducing the body to prespire and is also found favorable as herbal tonic. Herbal doctors have prescribed sassafras to treat cases of skin eruption,gout, and rheumatic conditions.

Neutral Copperbaron On Jan 6, 2002, Copperbaron from Vicksburg, MS (Zone 8a) wrote:

Native to the eastern U.S., this is a fast growing tree to 20-25' eventually reaching 50-60'. Very interesting leaves that may be oval, mitten shaped, or lobed on both sides. Very reliable fall color in the south with yellow, orange, and red shadings on the same tree.

This is a pleasantly aromatic tree with the root barks sometimes used to make a tea whose flavor is reminiscent of root beer. The tree's volatile oil contains safrole which has been carcinogenic in animals. File, the thickening agent in Louisiana gumbos, is derived from the sassafras tree.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Cullman, Alabama
Gadsden, Alabama
Goshen, Alabama
Huntsville, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
New Market, Alabama
Pelham, Alabama
Toney, Alabama
Tuskegee, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Deer, Arkansas
Morrilton, Arkansas
Smyrna, Delaware
Jacksonville, Florida
Greensboro, Georgia
Hawkinsville, Georgia
Roswell, Georgia
Jacksonville, Illinois
Winnetka, Illinois
Elberfeld, Indiana
Macy, Indiana
Valparaiso, Indiana
Benton, Kentucky
Custer, Kentucky
Hi Hat, Kentucky
Louisville, Kentucky
Mc Dowell, Kentucky
Melvin, Kentucky
Pippa Passes, Kentucky
Slade, Kentucky
Creole, Louisiana
Denham Springs, Louisiana
Zachary, Louisiana
Cumberland, Maryland
Galena, Maryland
Salisbury, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Bridgewater, Massachusetts
Brookline, Massachusetts
Halifax, Massachusetts
Mashpee, Massachusetts
Attica, Michigan
Waterford, Michigan
Mathiston, Mississippi
Saucier, Mississippi
Waynesboro, Mississippi
Kansas City, Missouri
Piedmont, Missouri
Protem, Missouri
Kingston, New Hampshire
Chatsworth, New Jersey
Morris Plains, New Jersey
Woodbine, New Jersey
Monticello, New York
Port Washington, New York
Rochester, New York
Asheville, North Carolina
Kinston, North Carolina
Zirconia, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Lebanon, Ohio
Middletown, Ohio
Toledo, Ohio
Allison Park, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Greensburg, Pennsylvania
Irwin, Pennsylvania
Pottstown, Pennsylvania
Royersford, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania (2 reports)
Florence, South Carolina
Okatie, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Dickson, Tennessee
Lenoir City, Tennessee
Beaumont, Texas
Colmesneil, Texas
Conroe, Texas
Corpus Christi, Texas
Houston, Texas
Jacksonville, Texas
Livingston, Texas
Lufkin, Texas
New Caney, Texas
Fort Valley, Virginia
Hot Springs, Virginia
Orlean, Virginia
Richlands, Virginia
Roanoke, Virginia
Colbert, Washington
Princeton, West Virginia
Cambridge, Wisconsin



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