The _sassafras_ grows wild from Massachusetts to Florida, and west
through the Mississippi Valley. It is generally a small tree, from
thirty to fifty feet high, and is often found growing in dense thickets
in uncultivated fields. The edible bark is dark red-brown. It is thick
but not hard and is deeply ridged and scaled. The cracked bark is one
of the characteristics of the tree; it begins to split when the tree is
t three years old. The strong aromatic flavor is held by the bark,
the wood, the roots, the stems, and the leaves. I have never tasted the
fruit, which is berry-like, dark blue, and glossy, and is held by a
thick, scarlet calyx; but the birds are fond of it.
Sassafras tea was at one time considered the best of spring medicines
for purifying the blood, and the bark was brought to market cut in short
lengths and tied together in bunches.
The leaves are varied; on one twig there will sometimes be three
differently shaped leaves. Some will be oval, some with three lobes, and
some mitten-shaped; that is, an oval leaf with a side lobe like the
thumb of a mitten.