Sassafras is common throughout the eastern U.S.
It is easy to recognize by its unique leaves --- three different leaf shapes can be found on one tree: elliptical, two lobed (which can be either right or left sided!), and three lobed.
Sassafras is usually a small tree....but has been known to grow up to 100 feet.
It prefers dry soils, in the woods, and at the wood edges....and seems to thrive in poor soils. You can also find it on abandoned fields and on open, eroded slopes.
The male and female flowers are usually borne on separate trees.
In the spring, small yellowish green flowers develop with the leaves; oval-shaped, dark blue, berry-like fruits of less than half an inch follow...and are eaten by at least 18 species of birds.
The Indians called this the "green stick" tree because of its smooth, bright-green twigs. Fossil records of species of Sassafras date from late in Early Cretaceous time.
Sassafras has been famous since pioneer days for Sassafras tea, which is made by boiling the bark of the roots. Oil of sassafras, distilled from the roots and bark, is used to perfume soaps and rubbing lotions as wall as to flavor medicines. The very young spring leaves are dried and powdered to thicked soups and stews (the filé gumbo of Creole cooking).
This is one of the most colorful fall trees in Eastern North America, with red, orange and yellow.