Sassafras albidum
Common name: 
Common Sassafras
Mitten Tree
SAS-ah-fras AL-bi-dum
Native to (or naturalized in) Oregon: 
  • Broadleaf deciduous tree, 30-60 ft (9-18 m), irregular shape, especially when young, may become flat-topped and broad at maturity, may root sucker and form thickets.  Leaves alternate, simple, entire, ovate to elliptic, 3-7 inches (8-18 cm) long, some are mitten-shaped or 3-lobed, medium green in summer then yellow, orange or scarlet in fall.  Flowers usually dioecious - male and female flowers on separate plants, develop before leaves, they are yellow and are borne in terminal racemes.  Fruit on female plans is shiny blue-black, ovoid shaped, about 1 cm long, attached to a red cup which is held upright by a red stalk.
  • Full sun or light shade.  Difficult to transplant from the wild because of a deep tap root.  Tends to be free of problems.
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4      Native range from Maine to Ontario and Michigan, south to Florida and Texas.
  • sassafras: probably an adaptation of a Native American name;   albidum: whitish, apparently refers to the sometimes glaucous bloom on the underside of leaves.
  • The bark of roots was used to make sassafras tea and to flavor root beer.   "Aromatic sassafras tea, once popular as a stimulant and blood thinner and as a reputed cure for rheumatism and syphilis, causes cancer in rats when taken in large amounts.  Oil of sassafras and safrole, major chemical components of the aromatic oil in sassafras root bark, were taken out of root beer more than 30 years ago.  And sassafras bark was banned from use in all food. Safrole-free extract, however, is allowed in food" (Snider, Sharon. 1991. Beware the Unknown Brew: Herbal Teas and Toxicity. FDA Consumer Magazine (May).
  • Filé (FEE-lay) powder, which used in Creole cooking, is made from the dried ground leaves of the sassafras tree.  It is believed to have been first used by the Choctaw Indians of the Louisiana bayou region.  Today the powder is used to both thicken and flavor gumbo.
  • albidum: whitish, the underside of the leaves
  • Corvallis: older tree in back yard at 1553 Jackson; also on the east side of 30th St near Grant Ave.; two younger trees at the SW corner of Adams Ave. and 8th St.
  • Oregon State Univ. campus: east (south) side of Cordley Hall, planted in 2012.
Click image to enlarge
  • bud break, spring

    bud break, spring

  • new leaves and flower buds

    new leaves and flower buds

  • flowers, spring

    flowers, spring

  • young tree and upper part of a large tree

    young tree and upper part of a large tree

  • foliage


  • leaves


  • leaves


  • young stand, fall

    young stand, fall

  • plant habit, fall

    plant habit, fall

  • foliage, fall

    foliage, fall

  • leaves, fall

    leaves, fall

  • winter twigs and buds

    winter twigs and buds