Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sassafras - Sassafras albidum   (Nuttall) Nees
Members of Lauraceae:
Only member of Sassafras in NC.
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Section 4 » Order Laurales » Family Lauraceae
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Author(Nuttall) Nees
DistributionThroughout the state, and probably occurs in all 100 counties.

This species occurs nearly throughout the eastern US, ranging north to ME and southern Canada, south to central FL and eastern TX. It is found in nearly all counties within this large range.
AbundanceA very familiar species, being common and widespread, except uncommon near the northeastern coastal areas (Hyde County north to the VA line). It is difficult to spend a day afield in the state and fail to see the species, at least away from coastal counties.
HabitatIt grows in a great array of mostly mesic to dry soil conditions. It can be found in old fields, thickets, fencerows, mesic to upland woods, and forests of many types. It is somewhat of a pioneer woody species, frequently growing in dense stands in abandoned fields and thickets. It also survives fire rather well, and can be found in Longleaf Pine-Wiregrass uplands.
PhenologyBlooms in March and April, generally before the leaves emerge. Fruits in June and July.
IdentificationThis is an easily identified small to occasionally medium deciduous tree, growing at times to 50 feet high, but usually smaller. The species often suckers and forms colonies. The leaves are of three types; some are elliptical with no lobes and reaching about 4 inches long; however, a number have one thumb-sized lobe, and many others have two such thumb-sized lobes. No other tree or shrub has such entire leaves with large thumb-like lobes. The species can be spotted easily in early spring by its many greenish-yellow flower clusters, before the leaves emerge. In summer the trees have blue-black drupes. In addition, as with other species in the family, broken twigs have a very aromatic lemon fragrance.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None. As there are no other North American species in the genus, this species has seldom had (or needed) a modifier name.
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACU link
USACE-empFACU link
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B.A. SorrieMoore County, November 2020. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieMale flowers; early April. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorrieFemale flowers; March.
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