Sassafras. Sassafras variifolium (Salisb.) Kuntze.

Figure 92.—Sassafras (Sassafras variifolium)

Synonyms

Sassafras officinale Nees and Eberm.; S. sassafras (L.) Karst.

Other Common Names

Ague tree, saxifrax, cinnamonwood, saloop, smelling-stick.

Habitat And Range

Sassafras is a native tree, growing in rich woods from southern Maine to Ontario, Michigan, and Kansas and south to Florida and Texas.

Description

The sassafras occurs in the North as a shrub, but in the Southern States it sometimes attains a height of 100 feet. The leaves are variable in shape, some with three lobes and others with but one lobe on the side, shaped like a mitten. The yellowish green, fragrant flowers are borne in clusters which appear in early spring. Male and female flowers are borne on different trees. The fruit, which ripens in September, is about the size of a pea, dark blue, 1-seeded and is borne on a thick red stalk. All parts of the tree are aromatic

Part Used

The bark of the root, which is in reasonably constant demand collected in spring or autumn. The outer layer is discarded. The production of sassafras oil by distillation of the root and root bark is a small industry in the southeastern section of the country.*

*Information on the extraction of volatile oils from plants is contained in the following publication: Sievers, A.F. Methods of extracting volatile oils from plant material and the production of such oils in the United States. U.S. Dept. Agr. Tech. Bul. 16, 36 p. illus. 1928.