Using Sassafrass

In the home landscape, Sassafras trees can be used as specimens in a woodland garden or be features near water areas such as ponds or streams. They are attractive in naturalized plantings especially if allowed to grow with multiple stems.

It is the smell and taste of parts of the tree that get as much attention as do its landscape value. The leaves of Sassafras when young are a great addition to a salad. Both young and old leaves can be used as a thickening agent for soups. When dried leaves are ground up into a powder, it is called "Filé", used in Cajun cooking for gumbo's and other gastronomic attractions of New Orleans. You can make your own filè by drying very young leaves, then grinding them in a coffee or spice mill. The root bark ground up makes delightful tea.

The Sassafras flowers are very popular with honey bees and other beneficial insects. In the fall songbirds devour the fruits as fast as they ripen. Sassafras (along with other members of the laurel family) is the host plant for the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.

In earlier times Sassafras leaves were used to sleep on, since it was once believed the aroma would keep insects away, and there is probably some truth to that assumption. While I couldn’t pull out scientific research on the subject, there is general support for the belief that Sassafras trees repel mosquitoes and other pest insects. Many folks used dried leaves inside because they feel they will add a pleasant but delicate scent to the room whilst also helping to keep insects away. Who am I to go up against what seems like a harmless trend.

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