Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees Sassafras, white sassafras. Synonyms Sassafras albidum var. molle (Raf.) Fern. Family Lauraceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 18158. USDA PLANTS Symbol SAAL5. TROPICOS # 17804221.

Images • Branchlet with leaves. • Individual leaf 1. • Individual leaf 2. • Individual leaf 3. • Branchlet with buds. • Close-up of buds. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3. • Herbarium sheet 4.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, dioecious, shrub or tree, (3–)5–30(–40) m tall.

Stems. Stems aerial or stolon. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) green or reddish-brown or yellow-green, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars crescent-shaped or half-round, bundle scars 1(–3) per leaf scar, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks furrowed or ridged.

Buds. Buds axillary or terminal, brown or green, 1.5–12.5 mm long, globose or ovoid, blunt or sharp, bud scales imbricate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, simple, petiolate, alternate, 6–15(–18) cm long, (2–)5–10 cm wide, obovate or oval or ovate, leaf margins entire, unlobed or shallowly lobed or moderately lobed or deeply lobed, palmately lobed, leaf lobes 1–3(–5) per leaf, leaf apices acute or obtuse, leaf bases cuneate. Leaf upper surface green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent. Leaf venation palmate or pinnate. Petioles 1.9–3.8 cm long. Stipules absent.

Flowers. Flowering March or April or May. Inflorescences axillary or terminal, panicles or racemes, flowers stalked. Flowers unisexual or pistillate or staminate, perigynous. Perianth. Calyx radially symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals 6 per flower, calyx tubes 3–5 mm long, yellow or yellow-green, lanceolate or obovate or ovate, pubescent, caducous. Corolla absent. Androecium. Stamens 9 per flower, staminodes present. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium monocarpous, 1 carpels per flower, styles 1 per pistil, styles 2–3 mm long, placentation basal. Other floral features. Hypanthia present.

Fruits. Fruits drupes, 0.6–1.5 cm long, black or blue, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or disturbed and weedy areas or dry-mesic upland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges.

Special Diagnostic Characters. Leaves and twigs with a spicy odor when crushed or broken, roots with a different "root-beer-like" odor; leaves may be unlobed or with 2 or 3 (rarely 4–7) lobes.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

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