SASSAFRAS, Sassafras albidum

October 2011

photo by Beth Schroeder
Sassafras are trees that grow to be 30 to 60 feet tall and can live for more than a century. It is dioecious, meaning each tree is male or female. Sassafras has three different leaf shapes: a simple oval, a “finger” off to the right or left like a mitten, or a leaf with “fingers” on both sides. Sassafras flowers produce nectar for butterflies. Female trees produce egg-shaped, deep blue drupes in late summer to fall. These drupes are eaten by many bird species including pileated woodpecker, eastern kingbird, gray catbird and eastern bluebird. Sassafras leaves are aromatic. In the fall they turn gold, apricot, peach and red. In the winter, sassafras can be recognized by its bark, which interweaves in a herringbone pattern.

More information

US Department of Agriculture

Arbor Day Foundation

Wikipedia