Sassafras Tree – Sassafras albidum
The sassafras tree is highly prized for its aromatic leaves and roots, which were once used to make old-fashioned sassafras tea, that are ground to make the file for Cajun-style file gumbo. Found throughout most of Eastern the United States, the sassafras tree grows well in Hardiness Zones 4 though 9.
Sassafras can be planted in dense thickets to produce brilliant foliage displays in fall, or it can be planted alone as a shade or ornamental tree. When used in landscaping, seedlings and very young trees are preferred for transplanting, as older trees are generally difficult to transplant successfully. The tree’s seeds are also suitable for germination. Seeds are collected in the autumn and planted the following spring.
Sassafras is a medium-fast grower, with most trees adding anywhere from 13 to 24 inches to their height each year. At maturity, sassafras reaches anywhere from 30 to 60 feet high and has a canopy that reaches 25 to 40 feet wide.
Sassafras thrives in areas with at least four hours of direct sunlight each day, but also tolerates partial shade. This tree prefers soil with a low pH, but can adapt to a wide variety of soil types, including wet, acidic and loamy soils. Sassafras trees are tallest when they are grown in well-drained, loamy soil or well-drained sandy soil. Sassafras is moderately drought tolerant and can withstand some exposure to salt.