Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant

This post covers Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant.  Sassafras is a deciduous tree that can be found natively as far north as southern Canada and from the east coast out west to Texas.  It is a tree you will find at forest edges and is easily identifiable with its three different shaped leaves on the tree.  While it was a unique edible plant for many years by the Native Indians and others, it is now banned from being sold as a medicinal or flavoring.

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Tree

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Tree

The plant likes rich loamy to sandy soil and prefers slightly acidic soils.  The tree grows best in full sun.  If you plant one tree it creates a colony by sending up new shoots from its roots as it spreads out.  These shoots can come up as far away as four feet from a tree.  Sassafras is a medium size deciduous tree with a max height from 45 to 60 feet.

The leaves are very unique on this plant.  There are two lobed, three lobed and no lobed leaves.  On rare occasions you can find a tree that has a leaf with more than three lobes.  I was first introduced to this plant at an outdoor and survival boot camp two years ago.

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Leaves

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Leaves

I noted the unusual leaves and swore that I had never seen this plant before.  Now as I look around I see them all over and just found two growing in one of my flower beds.  I now think I had my eyes closed because there are quite a few around.

The tree has greenish yellow flowers in the spring before the leaves appear.  It is dioecious with male trees and female trees relying on small insects to cross pollinate the trees. In late-summer there is a fruit with a seed in the center surrounded by a blue-black fruit. Fruit and seed production starts at about 10 years of age.

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Berry

Sassafras Plant Information | A Very Unique Plant Sassafras Berry

Sassafras is used as a thickener and flavoring in a Louisiana creole dish called gumbo. The leaves are dried and ground to make filé powder, a spicy herb used for making gumbo. Do you like Root Beer?  Sassafras was at one time the main ingredient in making root beer.  If you pull the roots up and give them a chew, you will have a root beer flavor in your mouth.  The leaves and stems have a citrus flavor to them.  Sassafras oil was also used as as a fragrance at one time.

Leaves and twigs are eaten by deer, rabbits, and ground hogs.  Birds love the fruit and do a great job of propagating them (like the two now growing in my flower bed).

According to the USDA[1] the Native Americans used sassafras for a variety of medicinal uses.* According to drugs.com[2] sassafras has been banned from use for medicinal purposes as well as flavoring or fragrance.

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[1] – http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_saal5.pdf

[2] – http://www.drugs.com/npp/sassafras.html

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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