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Sassafras



Sassafras

Sassafras albidum,
Wanaque, New Jersey
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Sassafras
Species

See text

Sassafras is a genus of four species of deciduous trees in the family Lauraceae, native to eastern North America and eastern Asia.[1]

Sassafras trees grow from 15–35 m (50–120 feet) tall and 70–150 cm (2.5–6 feet) in diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The branching is sympodial. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, soft, weak, and brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant. The species are unusual in having three distinct leaf patterns on the same plant, unlobed oval, bilobed (mitten-shaped), and trilobed (three pronged; rarely the leaves can be five-lobed[2]). They have smooth margins and grow 7–20 cm long by 5–10 cm broad. The young leaves and twigs are quite mucilaginous, and produce a scent similar to lemons when crushed. The tiny, yellow flowers are five-petaled and bloom in the spring; they are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The fruit are blue-black, egg-shaped, 1 cm long, produced on long, red-stalked cups, and mature in late summer.[3]

The name "Sassafras", applied by the botanist Nicolas Monardes in the sixteenth century, is said to be a corruption of the Spanish word for saxifrage.

Additional recommended knowledge

Contents

Species

  • Sassafras albidum (Nuttall) Nees - Sassafras, White Sassafras, Red Sassafras or Silky Sassafras. Eastern North America, from southernmost Ontario, Canada through the eastern United States south to central Florida, and west to southern Iowa and eastern Texas.
  • Sassafras tzumu (Hemsl.) Hemsl. - Chinese Sassafras or Tzumu. Central and southwestern China. It differs from S. albidum in the leaves being more frequently three-lobed,[4] the lobes having a tapered acuminate apex (not rounded to weakly acute).
  • Sassafras randaiense (Hayata) Rehd. - Taiwan Sassafras. Taiwan. Treated by some botanists in a distinct genus as Yushunia randaiensis (Hayata) Kamikoti,[5] though this is not supported by recent genetic evidence which shows the genus to be monophyletic.[1]

Uses

Essential oil distilled from the root-bark or the fruit was used as a fragrance in perfumes and soaps, food (sassafras tea and candy flavoring) and for aromatherapy.

The dried and ground leaves are used to make filé powder, a spice used in the making of some types of gumbo.

It is also used in the manufacture of the drug ecstasy, and as such, its transport is monitored internationally.

The roots of Sassafras was used in the flavoring of root beer until being banned in 1960.

In 1960, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of sassafras oil and safrole in foods and drugs based on the animal studies and human case reports. Several years later, the sale of sassafras oil, roots, or tea was prohibited by law. Subsequently, both Canada and the United States have passed laws against the sale of any consumable products (beverages, foods, cosmetics, health products such as toothpaste, and others) that contain more than specific small amounts of safrole.[6]

See also

  • Drug Digest Sassafras

References

  1. ^ a b Nie, Z.-L., Wen, J. & Sun, H. (2007). Phylogeny and biogeography of Sassafras (Lauraceae) disjunct between eastern Asia and eastern North America. Plant Systematics and Evolution 267: 191–203 Abstract.
  2. ^ Noble Plant Image Gallery Sassafras (includes photo of five-lobed leaf)
  3. ^ Flora of North America: Sassafras
  4. ^ Arboretum Trompenburg: Sassafras tzumu photo
  5. ^ Kamikoti, S. (1933). Ann. Rep. Taihoku Bot. Gard. 3: 78
  6. ^ EDrug Digest.
 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sassafras". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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