General characteristicsSassafras albidum, Sassafras, is a medium-sized deciduous tree in the Lauraceae, the Laurel family. This is a family of mostly pantropical, evergreen shrubs and trees; Sassafras has the most northern distribution of the Lauraceae.
Native range and habitatSassafras is widespread in eastern North America, from Maine to Ontario and Michigan, south to Florida and eastern Texas. It's most common as a successional plant in disturbed areas.
Because of its wide natural range, select a local ecotype, or acquire from a local nursery, for best adaptation to your conditions.
Asexual/vegetative propagationSassafras can form pure stands through suckering. Specimens propagated by apparent transplantation from the field may actually be suckers separated from a parent plant or stand. These progeny are prone to suckering from lateral roots. To minimize this, do not transplant from the wild. Plant only container-grown seedlings. [Cullina, DIRR1997, Flint]
Propagation from root cuttings is possible.
Sexual propagationPlants are dioecious.
Flowering and PollinationClusters of flowers with bright yellow sepals appear in early Spring, just before the leaf buds break. Flowers are pollinated by bees and flies.
FruitFruit are produced every year or two after the plant reaches maturity at about ten years of age. Fruit matures in the Fall. The fruit is an oil-rich, oval, blue-black drupe held on a red stem. Sassafras fruits are eaten by many species of birds.
Seeds may be gathered when fruits turn dark blue. Cleaned seeds may be stored for up to two years at cool temperatures. 120 Stratification - prechilling - for 120 days is required for germination. [USDA]
ReferencesCullina, William. Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines. 2002. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN-13: 978-0-618-09858-3
[DIRR1997] Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs. 1997. Timber Press. ISBN-13: 978-0-88192-404-6
[DIRR1998] Dirr, Michael. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Revised 1998. Stipes Publishing. ISBN-13: 978-0-87563-795-2
Flint, Harrison. Landscape Plants for Eastern North America. 1983. Wiley. ISBN: 0-471-86905-8
Sullivan, Janet (1993). "Sassafras albidum". Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory
Missouri Botanical Garden
Plants For A Future
University of Connecticut