Trees have three distinctly different 3-5” long leaves: three-lobed, mitten-shaped, and simple, that turn red, yellow and orange in fall.
Sassafras grows quickly, up to 3 to 4 feet in height each year for the first ten years in the right conditions. Tolerant of poor soils and drought once established, almost deer-proof. Trees grow best in full sun to light shade — their natural culture is along the forest edge. Although tolerant of poor soil, Sassafra grows best in rich, acidic, well-drained soil. Spreads by suckers to produce a thicket, but the suckers are easily removed if you prefer an individual tree. Consider Sassafras for screening and erosion control.
Fall color ranges from intense golden yellow in shadier places to scarlet, orange, and deep reds in sun.
Sassafras is dioecious, so male and female parts are on separate trees. Both are necessary, along with pollinators, to produce fruit. Yellow flowers appear for about one week in April and May before leaves emerge. Flowers are a bit larger on the male tree. Female trees produce dark blue fruit on stems that turn scarlet-red as fruit ripens. High fat fruit is an important food source for many birds.
Larval host plant to Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies, and Promethea, Imperial, Palamedes, Io, and Silk moths. Sassafras is also an excellent wildlife food source for many species of birds and mammals. NATIVE TO THE EASTERN HALF OF THE U.S.