Known for its distinctive beauty as well as culinary and ethnobotanical history, sassafras is an all-round great eastern North American tree. Some other colorful common names for this hardy, deciduous tree include cinnamon wood, mitten tree, ague tree. The name "gumbo file" refers to its leaves which are ground to form the flavorful thickening agent for the favorite Louisiana stew, gumbo. "Mitten tree" is made in reference to its unique leaves that come in three forms: simple leaves, mitten-shaped leaves and three-lobed leaves. And the "ague", an old generic term for fever with chills, was thought to be cured by a sassafras tincture, hence the name "ague tree." Native Americans were the first to use many parts of the tree both for traditional medicine and food preparations.
Mature sassefras trees reach a medium to large size and develop broad, flat crowns with age. Those growing in very sandy, poor soils may be considerably smaller and shrubby. This is an adaptable tree that can withstand many growing sites but is most commonly found growing in open forests, old fields or scrubby sites with well-drained soils.
Clusters of showy, five-petaled, greenish yellow flowers are borne in spring. These have a spicy sweet scent that’s likened to rootbeer. They are followed by greenish drupe fruits that age to blue-black. The crisp green leaves appear with the flowers and may be simple, mitten-like or three-lobed. In fall they turn glorious shades of yellow, orange, red and peach. Sassafras bark is grayish and furrowed but the twigs are green and remain attractive olive green through the winter.
Rarely grown as a landscape tree, sassafras is suitable for large landscapes and offers year-round interest and beauty. It develops best if provided a location with full sun and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. If its crown is topped, it will develop water sprouts at the base and adopt a multi-stemmed habit. It is a shallow-rooted tree so refrain from planting it in areas where high winds are common. There are some disease problems to be aware of including verticillium wilt, which can kill whole branches or trees.
In addition to being used in classic gumbo, sassafras is used to flavor rootbeer and make tea. (info source: Learn2Grow.com)
Genus - Sassafras
Species - Albidum
Common name - Gumbo file
Pre-Treatment - Required, (long term germination)
Hardiness zones - 4 - 9
Height - 50'-90' / 15 - 30 m
Spread - 40'-50' / 12 - 15 m
Plant type - Tree
Vegetation type - Deciduous
Exposure - Full Sun, Partial Sun
Growth rate - Fast
Soil PH - Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil type - Clay, laom, Sand, well drained
Water requirements - Drought tolerant, average water
Landscape uses - Shade Trees, Street Trees
Bloom season - Spring
Leaf / Flower color - Green / Yellow Green, Chartreuse
1. Soak in warm water for 24 hours.
2. Cold/moist stratify in moist vermiculite or sterile soil for 120 days in the fridge at +2-+4C.
3. Test soil pH with a test kit from an online supplier or a local garden center and amend according to the test results. Sassafras grows best in soil with a pH of 6.8. Well-drained, sandy loam soil works well for sassafras.
4. Plant seeds approximately 6-8 mm deep in the prepared soil.
5. Water sassafras sparingly once it is established. Rain water should be sufficient in most areas.
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