Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Sassafras albidum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-05-18.


Common Names

  • Sassafras


  • Laurus albida Nutt.
  • S. officinale var. albidum (Nutt.) Blake



(pl. calyces) Outer whorl of the perianth. Composed of several sepals.
The inner whorl of the perianth. Composed of free or united petals often showy.
Attached singly along the axis not in pairs or whorls.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Grey-blue often from superficial layer of wax (bloom).
Division of a leaf or other object. lobed Bearing lobes.
Egg-shaped; broadest towards the stem.
(botanical) All parts present and functional. Usually referring to both androecium and gynoecium of a flower.
Recess between two lobes or teeth on leaf margin.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Sassafras albidum' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2022-05-18.

A deciduous tree, occasionally 70 to 90 ft in the wild; young shoots glabrous or (in var. molle) downy. Leaves alternate, of variable shape, mostly oval, ovate or obovate, often with a conspicuous lobe on one or both sides, the sinus always rounded; they are 3 to 7 in. long, 2 to 4 in. wide, tapered at the base, prominently three-veined, glossy dark green above, pale and somewhat glaucous beneath, glabrous or almost so in the typical state, but downy on both sides when young and more or less permanently downy beneath in var. molle; stalk 12 to 112 in. long. Flowers greenish yellow, produced in May in racemes 1 to 2 in. long, the sexes usually on separate trees. Corolla absent. Calyx about 38 in. long and wide, with six narrowly oblong lobes. Stamens nine in the male, perfect; six, and aborted, in the female. Fruits dark blue, roundish oval, about 38 in. long.

This species (including the var. molle, see below) is a native of the eastern and central United States, extending as far west as Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and from New England to Florida; also of Canada (Ontario).

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Cannizaro Park, Wimbledon, London 59 × 414 ft (1983) (two larger specimens in the park died in 1980 and 1983, the larger measuring 70 × 7 ft (1979)); Savill Garden, Windsor Great Park, 40 × 2 ft (1984); Hillier Arboretum, Ampfield, Hants, 33 × 3 ft (1980); Oare House, Wilts., 49 × 212 ft (1984).

The tree at Wakehurst Place mentioned under this species is not S. albidum, nor is it the Chinese S. tzumu.

var. molle (Raf.) Fern.

Sassafras triloba var. mollis Raf.
Laurus sassafras L.
S. officinale Nees & Ebermaier

This variety, with the young branchlets and leaf-undersides downy, occurs almost throughout the range of the species, while the more glabrous, typical state is confined to the northern part of the area; but intermediates occur.The sassafras is pleasingly aromatic, and many medicinal virtues were once imputed to it. Although it has no great beauty of flower, it is a striking and handsome tree in foliage, and is of ornamental value even when it remains shrubby, as it often does in this country. Although it has been in cultivation in Britain since the 1630s there are very few good specimens in the country. The best was at Claremont, near Esher, which was about 50 ft high in 1910, the trunk 7{1/4} ft in girth at 1 ft from the ground – a fine pyramidal specimen. No comparable tree has been recorded recently; one at Wakehurst Place, Sussex, is about 60 ft high but only 3{1/4} ft in girth (1974).S. albidum is a perfectly hardy species except when quite young, though the unfolding leaves are sometimes crippled by late frost. It is usually raised from imported seed, but root-cuttings are another means of increase, and suckers are sometimes produced, which can be detached and established in pots. It needs a deep fertile soil.