sassafras Lauraceae Sassafras
albidum (Nutt.) Nees symbol: SAAL5
Leaf: Alternate, simple, ovate to elliptical, entire, 3 to 6 inches long, pinnately veined and variably lobed, green above and below and fragrant when crushed; leaves may be unlobed, 2-lobed (resemble a mitten), or 3-lobed (resemble a trident), and all three shapes may be present on the same branch.
Flower: Species is dioecious; small but quite showy, both male and females are bright yellow-green, borne in 2 inch racemes appearing in early to mid-spring.
Fruit: Dark shiny blue, ovoid, fleshy drupes (1/3 inch long) that are borne in a red cup attached to a red stalks, held upright, maturing late summer.
Twig: Slender, green and sometimes pubescent, with a spicy-sweet aroma when broken; buds are 1/4 inch long and green; twigs from young plants displayed at a uniform 60 degree angle from main stem.
Bark: Brown, with cinnamon-brown inner bark, becoming coarsely ridged and furrowed; when cut the spicy aroma is obvious.
Form: Small to medium sized tree up to 60 feet tall with an irregular often twisted trunk and main branches, usually flat-topped crown; root suckering may result in thickets.
Looks like: sourwood - blackgum - common persimmon
Additional Range Information: Sassafras albidum is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting sassafras.
More Information: Fall Color - Wood - Landowner Factsheet
External Links: USDAFS Silvics of North America - USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database - Horticulture Information - USDAFS Forest Products Lab
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson