Friday, October 21, 2011

Shades of Autumn--Sassafras

Sassafras albidum-a Missouri native-is a medium-sized deciduous tree that grows along the fence line of our property. Sassafras oil (obtained from the root bark or fruit) has been used as a tea, root beer flavoring and a thickening agent.  In 1960, the oil was determined to contain a weak carcinogenic substance (safrole) and was banned by the FDA...  I'm not going to try to brew a cup of tea from this tree on my property, but here's what I do like about the Sassafras tree:
  • It's a food source for wildlife.--In addition to munching on my Hostas, White-tailed deer (a constant presence in my yard) eat the leaves and twigs of this tree.  It's also a host plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly.
  • It has a continuous seasonal interest--yellow clustered blooms in the spring, followed by blueish/black berries in the late summer and in fall its leaves turn a deep orange to red.
  • What I find the most interesting or unusual about this tree is the fact that there are three different leaf shapes within the same tree (ovate, mitten shaped, three lobed)....


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