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Sassafras – Wikipedia

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**Botanical Characteristics**:
– Sassafras trees grow 9–35 meters tall with slender sympodial branches and smooth, orange-brown or yellow bark.
– All plant parts are fragrant with three distinct leaf patterns: unlobed oval, bilobed, and trilobed.
– Flowers are generally six-petaled, with some species being dioecious.
– The largest known sassafras tree is in Owensboro, Kentucky, over 30m high and 6.4m in circumference.

**Taxonomy and Distribution**:
Genus Sassafras was described by botanist Jan Presl in 1825.
– The name ‘sassafras’ comes from the French word ‘sassafras.’
– Sassafras trees are not in the family Saxifragaceae.
– Sassafras plants are endemic to North America and East Asia.
– Sassafras albidum and S. hesperia are found in North America.
– Sassafras tzumu and S. randaiense are found in East Asia.

**Ecology and Habitat**:
– Sassafras is deciduous and commonly found in open woods and fields.
– It grows well in moist, well-drained soils and tolerates various soil types.
– S. albidum ranges from southern Maine to eastern Texas.
– Sassafras is an important deer food in some areas.
– Various animals consume sassafras leaves, twigs, and fruits.

**Wood and Commercial Use**:
– Sassafras albidum is grown for its leaves and scent.
– Its wood is used in shipbuilding and furniture-making.
– Sassafras oil is extracted for various commercial products.
– Commercial harvesting primarily occurs in Asia and Brazil.
– Europeans and Indigenous North Americans historically used sassafras commercially.

**Sassafras Oil and Aroma**:
– Sassafras oil contains safrole and other chemicals.
– It was used in perfumes, soaps, and food.
– Safrole in sassafras oil is a precursor for drug manufacture.
– Sassafras oil is a natural insect deterrent.
– It is banned in the US for mass-produced foods and drugs.

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