Sassafras albidum

Common Names: Sassafras, white sassafras, red sassafras, silky sassafras
Category: Trees
Sub-category: Sassafras

The smell of sassafras oil is said to make an excellent repellent for mosquitoes and other insects. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree growing to 15 to 20 m tall, with a trunk up to 60 cm diameter, and a crown with many slender branches. The bark on trunk of mature trees is thick, dark red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The branching is sympodial. The shoots are bright yellow green at first with mucilaginous bark, turning reddish brown, and in two or three years begin to show shallow fissures. The leaves are alternate, green to yellow-green, ovate or obovate, 10 to 16 cm long and 5 to 10 cm broad with a short, slender, slightly grooved petiole. They come in three different shapes, all of which can be on the same branch; three-lobed leaves, unlobed elliptical leaves, and two-lobed leaves; rarely, there can be more than three lobes. In fall, they turn to shades of yellow, tinged with red. The flowers are produced in loose, drooping, few-flowered racemes up to 5 cm long in early spring shortly before the leaves appear; they are yellow to greenish-yellow, with five or six tepals. The fruit is a dark blue-black drupe 1 cm long containing a single seed, borne on a red fleshy club-shaped pedicel 2 cm long; it is ripe in late summer, with the seeds dispersed by birds.

Can be found just about anywhere in Connecticut, but especially in or near forests and roadsides.

Edible Notes: The root or root bark is used to make tea, although most commercial 'sassafras teas' are now artificially flavored as a result of the FDA ban on its primary ingredient Safrole which is now recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture as a potential carcinogen. Look for artificial sassafras flavoring as used in many root beer recipes.
Warnings: The plant contains safrole, which is considered a potential carcinogen by the USDA.