To give a general introduction of the sassafras tree, one can say that it is a yellowwood tree belonging to the laurel tree family. They are known for their brittle wood, aromatic bark and leaves and numerous uses. These trees are abundantly found in the eastern regions of North America. Let us learn more about it from the paragraphs given below.
Sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum) are deciduous trees that shed their foliage at the end of each growing season. They come in three different species, out of which one is extinct today. Being a part of the laurel family means that these trees come with aromatic foliage. Crushing a twig or smelling a loosened bark with help you encounter the unique aroma of the sassafras. Though a fully grown tree has a typical height of around 35 to 50 feet, the tallest tree to be found on Earth is a whopping 76 feet in height with a dizzying trunk circumference of over 11 feet. As they suck from their roots, it is very common to see them growing together in close clusters.
The distinctness of the leaves make them one for the most easily identifiable trees in the world. The leaves are large and mitten shaped. The leaves can also be three lobed, that look something like an alien hand print. Though rare, some leaves are also oval shaped with no lobes. What is very interesting to note is that many trees have a combination of all three leave types on one tree itself. During autumn, leaves take the hues of yellow, red, orange and purple, giving the area with clusters of these trees a very beautiful, colorful look.
The bark is usually very thick and has hues that vary between shades of orange and brown. The bark is usually deeply furrowed and the wood is light and hard. Even the bark is very fragrant but its fragrant wood is better known for being easy to work on. The bark, just like its other fragrant parts, exudes a citrus scent.
The tree blooms tiny, yellow colored flowers each spring. The flowers are five petaled and have just one sex per tree, i.e. the male and female flowers bloom on separate trees. The fruits are small egg shaped berries that come in a blue-black coloring. The fruits ripen late in the summers and can be seen on long red stalks.
If you wish to learn how to grow sassafras, here's the deal. You will need a well drained area that gets a lot of sun. They do not grow well in damp, shady or water clogged conditions. Once you have found the perfect location, just find the perfect sapling, a tree that is fairly young. Planting the young tree with a ball and burlap technique and doing so in the spring gives your tree a fair chance of survival. Once your tree has survived the planting, your job is to just protect it. These trees are very vulnerable to problems caused due to wind and ice, though they are fantastically drought resistant. Growing them also requires constant mowing of the nearby land, to prevent unrestrained root spread.
Various parts of the tree have been put to various different uses over the years. Though sassafras tea has several health benefits and medicinal properties, commercial sale of the tea has been banned in the US since the 1970s. It is believes that the compound safrole, present in natural products is a carcinogen that increases the risks of cancer in users. The root was also used in household production of root beer, along with molasses and honey. It also yields oil and the aromatic properties of the tree provide various artificial flavoring products. Currently, there are numerous safrole free sassafras extracts available in the market and these are the popular ingredients in various recipes, like sassafras candy.
Essential oil can be produced through the steam distillation of the tree bark and roots. This oil was once the main ingredient of many perfumes and soaps. The citrus aroma of this oil also made it useful in aromatherapy treatments. The safrole found in sassafras is essential in the production of the contraband drug 'ecstasy'.
In the wild, sassafras forms the natural food of the white-tailed deer and other animals like rabbits, bears and beavers. Many small mammals and birds are also known to consume sassafras fruits.
This was all the information I had on this subject. What I love most about them, is their varied colors, colors that change in summer and autumn and colors that contrast each other, even on the same tree and in the same season. I hope you have got all the facts that you wanted from this article.