The sassafras treeis native to North America and East Asia. This deciduous tree often grows naturally in the woods as well as open fields. A mature sassafras tree can reach between 20 to 60 feet in height or more, and 25 to 40 feet in width. Regarding soil requirements, the sassafras tree can grow in a variety of soils. However, it grows best in acidic soil that is sandy and well-drained. The sassafras tree can grow in hardiness zones 4 to 9, and is considered resistant to drought. Growth rate is considered medium to fast growing, with trees growing between 13 inches to 24 inches or more within a year. Some plants have grown over 15 feet in a period of 4 years. In terms of lighting requirements, the sassafras tree grows best in full sun to partial shade, with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight. The sassafras tree can survive over 1,000 years in the wild with the ideal growing environment.
In the spring, the sassafras tree blooms with clusters of yellow flowers. These yellow flowers are 1 to 2 inches long, and can be up to a half-inch in diameter. After a few days, the flowers are replaced by bright green leaves. At full maturity, the leaves can grow to be 3 to 7 inches long. A sassafras tree produces three types of leaves simultaneously. It produces oval shaped leaves, three-lobe leaves, as well as mitten-shaped leaves. It should be noted that the mitten shaped leaves can be either left or right-handed. The edges of the leaves are smooth. In the fall, the leaves turn a spectrum of colors, including yellow, orange, scarlet, and sometimes purple. It also may acquire half-inch dark blue fruit in the fall. The full leaves form a light-blocking canopy. The bark of the sassafras tree is green and smooth when it is young, and may become more orange or brown as it ages. It’s important to note that he plant can be trained as a single trunk tree or a bushy thicket. When it is young, the sassafras tree generally has the appearance of a shrub, with a central trunk and smaller saplings surrounding it. As the plant matures it will begin to form a defined tree shape, with one distinct trunk. The tree forms wide, with a flat top.
It should also be noted that sassafras trees are also known for their fragrant smell, which is similar to root beer. While this odor is mild in the spring when the flowers bloom, it continues to become more prominent throughout summer.
Regarding landscaping uses, sassafras can be considered an ornamental tree, as well as a shade tree. On the ornamental side, sassafras trees are commonly used for its spectrum of fall colors and unique appearance. They are also frequently used for the aroma that they introduce to a garden or yard area. The sassafras tree can also be used as a shade tree in a backyard, however should be planted 20 feet away from houses and buildings, as the tree tends to grow wide as well as tall if trained to grow as a single trunk tree. These backyard trees are commonly used for shade, and can be placed near entertainment or outdoor seating areas. In addition, sassafras trees are often planted to attract wildlife. Animals such as deer enjoy eating the leaves and branches of the tree. Birds such as turkeys, quail, and woodpeckers, as well as squirrels, are attracted to the fruit of the plant in the fall. Rabbits also enjoy the bark of the tree. Sassafras trees are also commonly used in parks or public areas for their shade.