Sassafras albidum (sassafras, white sassafras, red sassafras, or silky sassafras) is a species of Sassafras native to eastern North America, from southern Maine and southern Ontario west to Iowa, and south to central Florida and eastern Texas. It occurs throughout the eastern deciduous forest habitat type, at altitudes of up to 1,500 m (5000 feet) above sea level.It formerly also occurred in southern Wisconsin, but is extirpated there as a native tree.
Sassafras albidum, commonly called sassafras, is a Missouri native, ornamental, small to medium-sized deciduous tree which occurs in wood margins, fence rows, fields, thickets and roadsides. Shrubby in youth, but matures to a dense, pyramidal tree up to 60' tall. Spreads by root suckers to form large colonies in the wild. All of the trees in a colony may rise from the same parent. Dioecious (separate male and female trees). Attractive, greenish-yellow flowers appear in clusters at the branch ends in spring. Flowers on female trees (if pollinated) give way to small pendant clusters of bluish-black berries (drupes) which are borne in scarlet cup-like receptacles on scarlet stalks (pedicils). Fruits mature in September. Variable, 4-7" long leaves in three shapes (ovate, mitten-shaped and three-lobed) are bright green above and glaucous (albidum meaning white) below. Excellent yellow, purple and red fall color. To Native Americans, sassafras oils were freely used in tonics as medical panaceas. Culinary uses have included: sassafras tea (bark), root beer flavoring (root oil) and a gumbo-thickening agent called filé (stem pith). More recently, sassafras oils have been determined to contain a carcinogenic substance (safrole) and many of the former uses for the oils are now banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.