This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol2", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
A rough-barked tree, with broad entire or 1-3-lobed deciduous leaves, and yellow dioecious flowers in involucrate umbelled racemes at the ends of twigs of the preceding season, unfolding with or before the leaves, the involucre composed of the persistent bud-scales. Calyx 6-parted, that of the pistillate flowers persistent, its segments equal. Staminate flowers with 3 series of 3 stamens, the 2 outer series with glandless filaments, those of the inner series with a pair of stalked glands at the base. Anthers all 4-celled and introrse, 4-valved. Pistillate flowers with about 6 staminodia and an ovoid ovary. Fruit an oblong-globose blue drupe. [The popular Spanish name.]
Two species, the following typical one of eastern North America, the other Asiatic.
Laurus Sassafras L. Sp. Pl. 371. 1753.
Sassafras officinale Nees & Eberm. Handb. Med.
Pharm. Bot. 2: 418. 1831. Sassafras Sassafras Karst. Deutsch. Fl. 505. 1880-83. S. variifolium Kuntze, Rev. Gen. Pl. 574. 1891.
A tree sometimes 125o high, the trunk 70 in maximum diameter; the bark rough in irregular ridges, aromatic, the young shoots yellowish-green, the twigs and leaves mucilaginous, pubescent when young but becoming glabrous. Leaves oval and entire or mitten-shaped, or 3-lobed to about the middle and often as wide as long, pinnately veined, petioled; petioles 1' long or less; racemes several or numerous in the umbels, pe-duncled; flowers about 3" broad; stamens about equalling the calyx-segments; fruiting pedicels red, much thickened below the calyx; drupe nearly 1/2' high.
In dry or sandy soil, Maine to Ontario, Michigan, Iowa, Florida and Texas. Root largely used for the aromatic oil. Wood soft, weak, durable, brittle; color dull orange; weight 31 lbs. per cubic foot. April-May. Fruit ripe July-Aug. Cinnamon-wood. Smelling-stick. Saloop.