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Sassafras albidum

The Sassafras is a native pioneer invader, and urban use is an excellent opportunity for increasing biodiversity. The plant is tolerant of poor soils and its size will allow it to be used in restricted spaces such as under power lines at least for 20 or 30 years. The foliage and roots have an attractive root beer fragrance. Fall color is truly outstanding and ranges from yellow to bittersweet orange to purple. This plant prefers slightly acid soils, but adapts to neutral soils, tolerates mild compaction, and some salt. The Ohio state champion Sassafras (pictured below) grew in a fairly stressed site next to a heavily used state highway.

This plant appears to have a reasonable wound response. Occasionally attracts Japanese beetles. The one possible disadvantage would be suckering. This plant is well known for its ability to form root suckers. In an area that is being mowed or maintained, this may not be a problem, and should not discourage experimentation. Several trees planted near walks on the Ohio State University Campus have done well.

The late summer fruit is an ornamental dark blue berry on a bright red stem. If the fruit were undesirable, selecting male plants would eliminate the problem. May be a good alternative or compliment to Sweetgum. This plant is best transplanted from a container, and it is produced commercially.

Ohio State Champion Sassafras Sassafras Drupes
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Shade Tree Home Page
T. Davis Sydnor, Ph. D. and Nick E. D'Amato
Urban Forestry Department
School of Natural Resources
The Ohio State University
2021 Coffey Road,
Columbus OH 43210
(614) 292-3865