Sassafras – Sassafras albidum

Sassafras flowers
Sassafras flowers

‘…And the ambitious vine
Crowns with his purple mass
The cedar reaching high
To kiss the sky,
The cypress, pine,
And useful sassafras.’…

 

By Michael Drayton. Excerpt from To the Virginian Voyage

 

Sassafras is well noted for its leaves…there are three different shapes. Some leaves with three lobes and others with one lobe on the side looking like a mitten and some with none

All parts of this tree are aromatic. And the bark of the roots was used for a tonic tea. Sassafras was one of the first and earliest exports back to Europe. In 1587 Sir Walter Raleigh brought it back from the Virginia Colony to England. It grew to great popularity as a beverage and for its medicinal uses.

I had this tea served to me in a woodland setting. The man who made it had high praises for its taste, he gushed about the excellent flavor. I was enthusiastic to try it. I found I can drink it, but his excessive praise of the taste left me highly disappointed. I would have needed a little honey to augment the flavor! (but then I am finding I DO have a sweet tooth)

Deb Jackson says of Sassafras, “Explorers and settlers associated the pleasant aroma of the tree with healing and protection from evil influences, and extracts of the bark and roots soon became a panacea elixir sought by Europeans.”

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