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Sassafras albidum

Object Details

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Smithsonian Gardens Tree Collection
On Display
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Accession Number
2017-0428A
Description
A beautiful tree with mitten-shaped leaves, sassafras was once popularly used medicinally and culinarily. Many Native American tribes had a multitude of medicinal uses for sassafras, ranging from a preventative to ward off fever, to a dietary aid for “overfattness.” Culinarily, the leaves have been used like bay leaves, filé for gumbo was made from ground roots or leaves, and oil from the roots was one of the ingredients in root beer. More recently, the US Food and Drug Administration identified a carcinogenic substance in sassafras oil, and many of its previous uses are now banned.
Sassafras is of Special Concern in Maine.
Hardiness
-20 - 30 F
Attracts
Birds, butterflies
Bloom Time
April to May
Ethnobotanical Uses
Leaves used as a spice or thickening agent. Roots can be used to make a tea. Oil extracted from bark has been used to scent soap and flavor beverages.
Medicinal / Pharmaceutical
Some Native Americans used preparations of this plant to ward off fever, treat diarrhea, rheumatism, measles, scarlet fever, as a blood purifier, dietary aid for "overfattness," cough medicine, mouthwash, a gargle for colds, a wash for eyesores, to treat heart trouble, tapeworms, for bee stings, wounds, cuts, sprained ankles, bruises, nosebleeds, burns, lower chest pain, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, constipation, itching, loss of appetite, to treat worms, for gallstones, and bladder pain.
Provenance
From a cultivated plant not of known wild origin
Topic
Trees
Living Collections
Range
Central to E. US; E. Canada
Habitat
Open wood on well-drained soil; 0-1500 meters
Life Form
Deciduous tree
Average Height
40-50'
Bark Characteristics
Red-brown, deeply furrowed with flat, corky ridges. Twigs are smooth and green.
Bloom Characteristics
Female flowers are born on small, terminal cluster before the leaves. They do not have petals, but they do have 6 yellow-green sepals. Male flowers are inconspicuous.
Dioecious
Yes.
Fall Color
Orange, red, yellow
Foliage Characteristics
Simple, alternate, elliptic leaves can entire or irregularly lobed margins. 4-8" long.
Fruit Characteristics
Dark blue, oval drupe with a thick red stalk. .25-.4" long. Ripens in September.
Structure
Young: pyramidal Mature: rounded to irregular
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Common Name
Sassafras
Ague Tree
Mitten Tree
Group
[vascular plants]
Class
Equisetopsida
Subclass
Magnoliidae
Superorder
Magnolianae
Order
Laurales
Family
Lauraceae
Genus
Sassafras
Species
albidum
Restrictions & Rights
Usage conditions apply
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ax7447f2147-5775-4379-8b71-9c1a5044c5de
Record ID
ofeo-sg_2017-0428A
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
Photographed by: Hannele Lahti
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