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Sassafras Tree Information

Looking for some interesting facts about the sassafras tree which is native to America? Here we will tell you all that you want to know about this deciduous tree species.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa May 10, 2019
Sassafras variifolium or Sassafras is a tree which is native to America. It belongs to the family Lauraceae. Known as a herbal curative, the benefits of the tree include miraculous recoveries for the sick who drink tea made from the roots of this plant.


Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Sassafras
Species Names: Sassafras albidum, Sassafras randaiense, Sassafras tzumu
Common Names: Saxifrac, Smelling Stick, Aguetree, and Cinnamon Wood


Its distinctive leaves make the identification of sassafras an easy task. The leaves are shaped like a mitten with a right thumb or left thumb. They can either be three-lobed or oval and unlobed. The leaves are aromatic, and when you crush them, you will get an aroma that is a lot like root beer.
A medium-sized tree, it reaches 40 to 60 feet in height. It forms a flat-topped tree with an irregular head. The tree has a reddish-brown, corky, ridged bark and the leaves are bright green in color. These leaves can change color to shades of yellow, orange, scarlet, and purple in fall. They bear blue berries on bright red stalks.

Growing a Sassafras

You need to plant the sapling in rich, moist, and acidic soil. Prune out the suckers as they form, to give it a tree-like shape. Ensure that it gets proper shade. It is a potential backyard tree. Although it is a pest-free tree, it can get damaged by wind or ice due to its brittle wood.


It is a favorite with gardeners due to its aromatic spring blooms, colorful fall leaf colors, and unique horizontal branching patterns. It is very easy to grow and requires very little care and maintenance.
Propagation can happen through seeds, roots, or even suckers. After reaching a minimum age of 10 years, it takes another 1 or 2 years for seeds to be produced. At cool temperatures, the seeds can be stored for up to 2 years.


A spicy and aromatic plant, its roots, bark, leaves, shoots, and pith from the branches are used for many purposes by the Native Americans. They used the roots to make an infusion that could treat fever, diarrhea, rheumatism, measles, and scarlet fever. The same was also used as a blood purifying agent and as a treatment for cough.
Decoctions made from the root of the tree were also used to treat heart troubles and an infusion mixed with whiskey was used to treat rheumatism and tapeworms. The poultice made from leaves was rubbed against bee stings, wounds, and cuts and also used to treat sprained ankles and bruises.
New sprouts were used to make infusions that helped treat nosebleeds. Babies suffering from itching, enlarged eyes, fever, drooling, loss of appetite, etc., were given bark infusions. The other medicinal uses included treating gallstones, bladder pain, lower chest pain, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea.
The leaves were used as a spice to flavor meat soups and also thicken them. The gumbo filé made from ground roots and leaves was used as a spice. The wood was and is still used to make furniture, and the flowers as fertilizer, when planting beans.
The tea made from the tree is also known for its medicinal properties, but there is some concern regarding the carcinogenic effect caused by excessive intake. Sassafras tree can help restore depleted soil in old fields and can also be used to make perfumed soaps.