Landowner Fact Sheets

sassafras Sassafras albidum play

Sassafras is a widely distributed eastern species known for its aromatic nature and variably shaped leaves. A pioneer on abandoned and neglected lands, sassafras also provides browse material and fruit for wildlife. The wood is used for various purposes and oils are extracted from the root bark for the perfume industry.

range map Click to see more images. fall color wood grain

Sassafras is not commonly regenerated. Due to its shade intolerance and suckering habit, sassafras could be regenerated by clearcut, seed-tree, and large group selection methods.

Sassafras is a pioneer tree that readily invades edges and fields. It can grow on a variety of soils.


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.

Timber Value
Sassafras wood is used for cooperage, buckets, posts, rails, furniture, interior finish, cabinets, and fuelwood.

Wildlife Value
Bark, twigs, and leaves are browsed by various species.
Attracts woodchucks, deer, rabbits, bears, beavers, bobwhites, turkeys, kingbirds, woodpeckers, flycatchers, mockingbirds

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Sassafras root was one of the earliest new world exports - it was used to perfume soaps and make tea. Native Americans used to use sassafras trees for dugout canoes. Large, extended doses of sassafras are not recommended since it contains a chemical called safrole which in laboratory tests has been found to cause liver damage and cancer in animals. Sassafras extracts which do not contain safrole are still used in some commercial teas and root beer.

Latin Meaning
Sassafras: American Indian name or from Spanish "saxafrax" / albidum: white (leaf undersides)

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.