Graves, Arthur H. Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, New Haven, Connecticut.
Davis, Kenneth P. School of Forestry, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Last reviewed:August 2020
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A medium-sized tree, Sassafras albidum, of the eastern United States, extending north as far as southern Maine. Sassafras is said to live 700–1000 years. It can be recognized by the bright-green color and aromatic odor of the twigs and leaves. The leaves are simple or mitten-shaped (hence, a common name “mitten-tree”), or they may have lobes on both sides of the leaf blade (see illustration). Sometimes, sassafras is only a shrub in the north; however, from Pennsylvania and southward, heights of 90 ft (27.4 m) or more, with diameters of 4–7 ft (1.2–2.1 m), have been reported for this plant. The wood is soft, brittle, coarse-grained, and somewhat aromatic, and the heartwood is reddish. Because it is durable in contact with moisture, it has been used to make fence posts, rail fences, boats, and sills of houses. The Janka hardness for sassafras is 630 lb-force (286 kg-force); its density is 37 lb/ft3 (593 kg/m3). The aromatic substance, found especially in the roots, is a volatile oil (oil of sassafras) that is used medicinally as a stimulant and a diaphoretic (a substance that produces perspiration), and also as a flavoring agent. See also: Forest and forestry; Laurales; Leaf; Tree
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