Sassafras

Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees


     

        

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Family:  Lauraceae

Native or Introduced to Illinois: native 

Natural Habit in Illinois:  dry cliffs; wooded slopes; dry soils at edges of woods and prairies; sandy soil; old fields

Leaf:  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. 

Flower:  The trees are dioecious (a tree will have either male or female flowers) with fragrant flowers.  The female flowers (1cm 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 leaf buds appear at the same time the tree flowers in early spring.

Fruit:  The female trees have small, oval fruits (6 to 10 mm) that are dark blue with thick, red stalks.  The fruits ripen in the fall.

Twig:   Slender, green and sometimes pubescent, with a spicy-sweet aroma when broken. Buds are 1/4 inch long and green.

Bark:   Young trees have greenish bark.  Older trees have reddish brown bark that is rough, thick, and deeply ridged.

Size/Form/Shape:  Small to medium-sized tree with an irregular, usually flat-topped crown. Root suckering may result in thickets.

County Distribution Map for Illinois:  

 

Sources for the Sullivan Middle School Tree Identification Guide were obtained though the use of the following sites: