ten Sassafras albidum seeds on eBay on April 10, 2011. Reportedly they
were picked fresh off the seller's 30+ year old mother tree in Selmer,
Tennessee. Their family has sold these same tree genetics for years to
hundreds of growers. Seeds were not from this years harvest, as they would
not be ready to plant, The seeds have been through the drying and freezing
process and are ready to plant.
planted the seeds on April 18, 2011, none germinated.
Sassafras is a perennial, deciduous tree or shrub native to the United States.
Its most active
growth period is in the spring and summer. It has green
foliage and inconspicuous yellow flowers, with a moderate amount of
conspicuous brown fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed
in the late spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer.
Sassafras has a moderate life span and a slow growth rate. At maturity,
the typical Sassafras tree
will reach up to seventy five feet high, with a maximum height at twenty years of
twenty four feet.
Uses of Landscaping, Medicinal,
Ethnobotanic: All parts of the sassafras
plant are spicy and aromatic. The roots, bark, leaves, new shoots, and
pith from the branches of sassafras were used extensively for a wide
variety of purposes by may Native American tribes including the Cherokee,
Chippewa, Choctaw, Creek, Delaware, Oklahoma, Houma, Iroquois, Koasati,
Mohegan, Nanticoke, Rappahannock, and Seminole. The medicinal uses of
sassafras by Native Americans were many. Infusions made from the bark of
the roots were taken internally as a preventive to ward off fever, as well
as a remedy to treat diarrhea, rheumatism, measles, and scarlet fever. An
infusion of the roots was used as a blood purifier, and as a dietary aid
to treat obesity. Infusions of the plant were used as a cough
medicine, mouthwash, and gargle for colds. Root infusions were also used
to treat fevers that occurred in women after giving birth and as a wash
for eyesores. Decoctions made from roots were used to treat heart
troubles. An infusion of the plant was mixed with whiskey and used for
rheumatism, tapeworms, and as a blood remedy to purify the blood. The
leaves were made into a poultice that would be rubbed onto bee stings,
wounds, cuts, sprained ankles, and bruises. Nosebleeds were treated with a
decoction made from the pith of new sprouts. The pith from branches was
made into a decoction used to wash and dress burns. Infusions of the plant
were used to treat lower chest pain, nausea, vomiting, indigestion,
constipation and diarrhea. The bark was used as an emetic purification
after funeral ceremonies. Bark infusions were given to babies and children
to treat itching, enlarged eyes, fever, drooling, and loss of appetite.
Children with worms drank and were bathed in an infusion that included the
bark of sassafras. The plant was taken to treat gallstones and bladder
pain. In addition to this variety of medicinal uses, sassafras was used
for food, construction and other purposes. The leaves were used fresh as a
spice, much like bay leaves, for flavoring in meat soups. Leaves were
dried and pounded and used as a thickening agent and to add flavor to
foods and soups. File made from the ground roots or leaves, is an
important spice used today in Cajun foods, such as gumbo. The white or red
roots, made a pleasant-tasting tea, although the red roots were preferred.
The wood from the sassafras tree was used to make furniture. The flowers
were used as a fertilizer when planting beans. The plant was used as a
fragrance to scent soap. The bark contains oil of sassafras, an important
Wildlife: The fruits are readily eaten
by wildlife. Birds, such as quails, wild turkeys, kingbirds, crested
flycatchers, mockingbirds, sapsuckers, pileated woodpeckers, yellowthroat
warblers and phoebes eat the fruits and disperse the seeds. Black bears,
beaver, rabbits and squirrels eat the fruit, bark and wood. White-tailed
deer browse the twigs and foliage.
Other: Sassafras has been cultivated
since 1630 for its leaves, bark, and wood. The plants are used for tea,
oil, and soap. The heartwood is orange-brown and course-grained. It is
used for purposes requiring lightwood, such as boat construction, because
it is soft but durable.
Laurel Family (Lauraceae).
have greenish bark. Older trees have reddish brown bark that is rough,
thick, and deeply ridged. The leaves are alternate and variable in shape
with either none or one to three lobes at the apex. The two-lobed leaves
are mitten-shaped. The leaves are light, bright green during the summer
and turn to bright yellow-orange and red-orange in the fall. The trees are dioecious (a tree will have either male or female flowers) with fragrant
flowers. The female flowers (1 cm across), borne on small, terminal
clusters before the leaves, are without petals, but have six
greenish-yellow sepals (3 to 5 mm long). Male flowers are inconspicuous.
The female trees have small, oval fruits (6 to 10 mm) that are dark blue
with thick, red stalks. The leaf buds appear at the same time the tree
flowers in early spring. The fruits ripen in the fall.
Cultivation and Care
Sassafras trees are valued for their
fragrant spring bloom, interesting horizontal branching pattern, and
striking fall color. The small trees are medium to fast growing and work
well for landscape use as specimen trees and mass plantings. They are easy
to culture and require little care. Although adapted to dry, sandy soils,
they do best in moist, fertile soils in partial to full shade. Seeds,
root-cuttings or suckers may propagate sassafras trees. Seeds are produced
every one or two years after the plant reaches the minimum seed-bearing
age of ten years. Seeds may be gathered when the fruits turn a dark blue.
Seeds should be cleaned and stored at cool temperatures where they will
last for up to two years. The seeds require pre-chilling for 120 days in
order to germinate. Sow the seeds .5 to 1.5 cm deep in prepared beds in
the late fall. The plants do not transplant well because of a deep
taproot. It is therefore best to purchase young plants that have been
grown in containers for successful transplanting.
General Upkeep and Control
The trees can form dense thickets from
sucker growth. These thickets can be quite striking in color during the
fall months. If a single stem is desired remove the suckers that develop.
Mowing can easily control the suckers. The tree may be pruned in the
winter to remove dead wood.
Pests and Potential Problems The trees
can develop a variety of insect and disease problems that are generally
not serious. Insects will eat the foliage, but rarely eat the entire
leaves. The plants may experience root rot if grown in wet, clay soils.