and Deciduous Forest Trees
of Southern Ontario

Sassafras albidum

Location in Ontario: Sassafras is a Carolinian Tree found in pockets throughout the Carolinian Zone.

Large Sassafras trees in autumn colours, Norfolk County

Genus Sassafras:
This is a small genus of only 3 members. Size ranges from small to large. The trees are aromatic. Leaves are alternate and simple; with or without one to three lobes. Leaves and twigs have a citrus scent when crushed. Flowers are tiny and yellow-green. Trees can be monoecious or dioeciouis depending on the species. The fruit is a small drupe. Sassafras Albidum is the only species that grows in Ontario.

Sassafras grows on rich sandy soil, but can also grow on limestone. It can be found either as a large tree in a forest, or along the edges of disturbed areas such as fields and roadways.

Landscape Use:
Sassafras makes a beautiful medium sized lawn specimen with its outstanding fall colours, unusual fruit, interesting bark patterns and 3 variations of leaves! It doesn't transplant well, so extra care is needed when planting. 

Leaves: The leaves can have various shapes, with one, two or three lobes. The edges are smooth.


Three different leaf shapes and a leaf bud

FALL COLOUR WATCH:  yellow, orange or red

A full compliment of colours
Size: This medium sized tree grows up to 20 metres, and can reach 100 years of age.

Bark: The bark of this tree is dark brown and deeply grooved. A yellow dye can be made by boiling the bark.

Sassafras is one of the few trees that has a deep brown coloured bark. St. Williams Nursery and Ecology Centre.

TREE FACT: The flavouring called Sassafras is made from the roots. Root Beer was originally made from Sassafras, but today it is artificially flavoured.

Flowers: Sassafras trees are dioecious, with male (pollen) flowers and female (seed) flowers occuring on different trees. Flowers are greenish-yellow and in loose clusters. They appear in May.

Fruit: The large stone-like seeds are contained in small, blue-coloured berries (drupes) on a club-shaped, red stalk. Fruit appears in late August and  is produced every 1 or 2 years after 10 years of growth.

Wood: The wood is soft and very aromatic.
Specific gravity: 0.46
Janka Hardness: 630 lb
Wood Comparison Chart

The wood is used for fence posts and flooring. Native people and early explorers used Sassafras wood to make dugout canoes because the wood is very durable.

Amazing autumn colours

A grove of Sassafras, Ojibway Prairie, Essex County