Sassafras





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

about 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.





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