Sassafras Sassafras albidum (Nuttall) Nees    Synonyms: Sassafras sassafras, Sassafrass albidum var. molle.
Kingdom Plantae   >   Division Tracheophyta   >   Class Magnoliopsida   >   Order Laureles   >   Family Lauraceae   >   Genus Sassafras   

Status:

Sassafras is a small tree (or sometimes a shrub). It ranges from "southwestern Maine to Michigan and Illinois, south to Virginia and Arkansas" (Reed, 1964). It is abundant throughout Maryland, but is least common at high altitudes (Brown and Brown, 1972). Sassafras is one of four native species belonging to the Laurel Family (Lauraceae) that occur in Maryland. The others are Spicebush, Swamp Bay, and Pondspice. Of these four Laurel-Family species that occur in Maryland, only Sassafras and Spicebush are common; the other two are highly state-rare.

Description:

Leaves of Sassafras are oval to ovate and come in three shapes, all of which may be present on the same plant: unlobed, single-lobed (mitten-shaped), and two-lobed. Developing bark soon becomes rough, furrowed, and ridged, with characteristic horizontal cracks and a reddish-brown color. Flowers are small, greenish-yellow, in panicles. Fruit is an ovoid, blue or blue-black drupe whose color contrasts with the elongated red pedicels (stalks) that bear them.

Where to find:

In dry to mesic woods, old fields, fencerows, and other disturbed sites.

Relationships:

A host plant for Spicebush Swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Host plant for various moth species including Imperial Moth, Tulip-tree Silk Moth, Promethea Moth, Io Moth, Woograin Leafroller Moth, Spotted Apatelodes Moth, Tulip-tree Beauty Moth, Signate Melanolophia Moth, Sassafras Caloptilia Moth, Fluid Arches Moth, and Evergreen Bagworm Moth, (Database of World's Lepidopteran Host Plants).

There are 1,452 records in the project database.

View at Maryland Plant Atlas

Search Flora of North America

Search Mid-Atlantic Herbaria Consortium

Search Norton-Brown Herbarium

View taxon at iNaturalist

View taxon at NatureServe

Search Google Images

Search MBP Facebook posts (beta | requires login)


[View seasonality details]
GA AL WA FR CL MO HO BA BC HA CE PG AA CV CH SM KE QA CN TA DO WI SO WO 
The bark of a mature Sassafras in Wicomico Co., Maryland (1/25/2014). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Talbot Co., Maryland (2/19/2017). Photo by Jared Satchell. (MBP list)

Sassafras at Fort Smallwood Park, Maryland (5/5/2012). Note the three different shapes of leaf on the same tree: rounded, three-pronged, and "mitten"-shaped. Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras at Fort Smallwood Park, Maryland (5/5/2012). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras blooming in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (4/14/2016). Photo by Robert Ferraro. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Kent Co., Maryland (4/27/2014). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras growing in Caroline Co., Maryland (4/26/2016). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Queen Anne's Co., Maryland (4/25/2015). Photo by Nancy Martin. (MBP list)

Sassafras with unripe fruit in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (7/15/2012). The fruit will ripen to have red stalks and black berries. Sassafras fruit is a popular food source for birds. Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras flowers in Washington Co., Maryland (4/21/2013). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (4/13/2011). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Closeup of the fruit of Sassafras in Worcester Co., Maryland (8/4/2012). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)

Sassafras growing in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (10/26/2019). Photo by Matthew Beziat. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Caroline Co., Maryland (7/15/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Fruit of Sassafras in Frederick Co., Maryland (9/23/2015). Photo by Richard Orr. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Caroline Co., Maryland (6/5/2016). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Flowering Sassafras in Prince George's Co., Maryland (4/17/2016). Photo by Matthew Beziat. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Allegany Co., Maryland (4/29/2020). (c) ptbrnchbob, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by ptbrnchbob via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Sassafras growing in St. Mary's Co., Maryland (5/8/2016). Photo by Tyler Bell. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Garrett Co., Maryland (6/2/2014). Photo by Jim Stasz. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Garrett Co., Maryland (10/3/2013). Photo by Boyer and McDowell. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Allegany Co., Maryland (5/9/2016). Photo by Kimberly Booth. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Caroline Co., Maryland (10/11/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Howard Co., Maryland (4/22/2010). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (8/4/2011). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Sassafras (young plant in late fall) in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (11/21/2015). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Harford Co., Maryland (10/30/2016). Photo by Dave Webb. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Howard Co., Maryland (11/1/2016). Photo by Bill Hubick. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (10/20/2010). Photo by Bill Harms. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Baltimore City, Maryland (10/27/2012). Photo by Matthew Beziat. (MBP list)

Sassafras in bloom in Howard Co., Maryland (7/25/2017). Collected and processed by Helen Lowe Metzman. Photo by USGS PWRC. (MBP list)

Sassafras in bloom in Howard Co., Maryland (7/25/2017). Collected and processed by Helen Lowe Metzman. Photo by USGS PWRC. (MBP list)

Sassafras in bloom in Howard Co., Maryland (7/25/2017). Collected and processed by Helen Lowe Metzman. Photo by USGS PWRC. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Montgomery Co., Maryland (9/23/2020). (c) Katja Schulz, some rights reserved (CC BY). Photo by Katja Schulz via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Baltimore Co., Maryland (4/29/2019). (c) greaterbaltimorewilderness, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by greaterbaltimorewilderness via iNaturalist. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Caroline Co., Maryland (4/26/2016). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Caroline Co., Maryland (4/20/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Baltimore Co., Maryland (4/26/2020). (c) Emily L. Stanley, all rights reserved. Photo by Emily Stanley. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Worcester Co., Maryland (11/22/2020). (c) Wayne Longbottom, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Wayne Longbottom. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Baltimore Co., Maryland (6/20/2020). (c) Dwight Johnson, all rights reserved. Photo by Dwight Johnson. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Dorchester Co., Maryland (6/19/2022). (c) Ashley M Bradford, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Ashley Bradford. (MBP list)

Sassafras growing in Harford Co., Maryland (11/27/2016). Photo by Dave Webb. (MBP list)

Sassafras in Baltimore Co., Maryland (4/29/2017). Photo by Jim Brighton. (MBP list)


View All Images

Use of images featured on Maryland Biodiversity Project is only permitted with express permission of the photographer.