Sassafras is a North American native tree that provides vivid fall color and interesting mitten-shaped leaves. In the wild it can form thickets, a trait that may not be appropriate for every landscape.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Shade tree,
- Medium tree (25-40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Acid soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Dry sites,
- Alkaline soil
- Moderately Tolerant
- Moderately Tolerant
- Excessive sucker growth,
- May be difficult to find in nurseries
- Fall color,
- Showy fruit
Season of Interest:
- Mid spring,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Game birds,
- Small mammals,
Tree & Plant Care
This tree is best planted in the spring. This is a thicket-forming plant and may require more maintenance due to suckering.
Disease, pests, and problems
Japanese beetle, powdery mildew, leaf spots and cankers are possible problems
Disease, pest, and problem resistance
Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to most of the eastern United States.
Bark color and texture
The reddish brown to gray-brown bark is ridged and furrowed.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
The simple, alternate leaves can take on three shapes: mitten-shaped, oval or mitten-shaped with two 'thumbs'. The leaves have untoothed margins.
In summer, the leaves are medium green. Fall color ranges from yellow to orange to red. Leaves are aromatic when crushed.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Male and female flowers on separate trees (dioecious). Both types are yellow and borne in small clusters. Slightly ornamental at best.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fruit are borne on female trees only. They are dark blue berry-like (drupes) on bright red stalks.