How Do You Identify Sassafras Trees?

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Identify sassafras trees by examining the leaves, bark, tree height, flowers, fruit, scent and geographic location of the trees. You need a field guide for comparison. Sassafras trees are usually easy to identify by taking all of these features into consideration, with identification completed in under 30 minutes.

  1. Determine the height of a mature tree

    Measure or estimate the height of a mature tree. The average height of a sassafras tree is between 20 and 40 feet, though some are shorter due to twisting of the trunk.

  2. Examine the leaves

    Check the shape of the leaves on the tree. Most sassafras trees contain three different leaf shapes. One shape resembles a child’s mitten, while others are oval or resemble a webbed foot.

  3. Check the bark

    Look for brownish-red bark containing deep furrows. Break open the bark to look for a cinnamon color.

  4. Look for flowers and fruit

    Check the tree for yellowish-green clusters of flowers in May or dark blue fruit in September. Both male and female trees produce flowers, though only the female bears fruit.

  5. Smell the bark

    Snap off a twig, and smell it. Sassafras trees were once used in the production of root beer. This practice was discontinued, but the distinctive aroma of root beer is a relic of the tree’s inclusion.

  6. Check the geographic location

    Sassafras trees are found in the eastern portion of the United States.