Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is a native American deciduous tree that grows primarily on the east coast from Maine to Florida, and partially into the plains to Iowa. It is very abundant here in Connecticut, and easy to forage in large quantities. It likes wet soil and is found in old fields, along field edges, and in urban parks. It spreads by producing roots and sapling clones underground, so one mature tree will be surrounded by hundreds of small saplings. The tree is easy to identify in the winter by looking for these many saplings surrounding the mother tree. The bark is green on the small saplings, but as the trees get larger you can see the reddish coloring between the furrows of the grey bark.
|flowers and new leaves|
|cross-section of root|
I will mention the USDA warnings about a compound in sassafras, safrole, which is considered a potential carcinogen in massive quantities. Safrole is also used in the manufacture of MDMA. We are not that concerned, as we do not consume huge amounts of sassafras. Native Americans used the decoction of the roots as a blood purifier. Sassafras oil is used to scent cosmetics and in aromatherapy.