Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
The Sassafras tree grows to about 10 feet tall with a crown of many slender branches. The Sassafras’ bark is thick, dark reddish brown, with deep ruts or grooves. New stems are bright yellowish green and turn reddish brown as they mature.
This shrub or small tree bears different three different kinds of leaves on the same plant (and even on the same branch). Some leaves will have one lobe, some two lobes, and some no lobes. Leaves grow alternately along the branches and are green to yellowish green in color.
The loose, drooping flowers, which appear in early spring, are small and yellow to yellowish green with each flower having 5-6 petals. The fruits are dark blue and contain a single seed that grows on a bright red, club-shaped structure. All of the plant parts have a characteristic root beer smell.
Where to Find: Sassafras grows at the margins of roads and forests, usually in open, sunny areas. It is a common tree throughout eastern North America.
Edible Parts: The young twigs and leaves are edible fresh or dried. You can add dried young twigs and leaves to soups. Dig the underground portion, peel off the bark, and let it dry. Then boil it in water to prepare sassafras tea.
Other Uses: Shred the tender twigs for use as a toothbrush. The sassafras oil can be used as a bug or mosquito repellent.