Sassafras albidum is a native shrub or small tree, sometimes called mitten tree.  It is one of the easiest trees to recognize because its leaves vary in shape--a most unusual feature.  They may have one, two or three lobes, thus many leaves look like mittens.  Flowers are yellowish, fairly small, and appear in spring.  Like its relatives cinnamon and spicebush, this plant has aromatic bark--scratch a stem and smell your fingers! 

Roots, bark and leaves of this plant have all been used by people for food and flavoring.  Sassafras was a traditional component of root beer, but because the roots have been shown to contain a carcinogen it is no longer used.  The leaves do not contain the carcinogen and they are still ground and used in creole dishes, mainly to flavor some types of gumbo.

 Sassafras is also a great plant for wildlife--it has tasty fruits and grazers may eat the leaves too.  There is a lot of sassafras on the trail but in many places it is being crowded by other plants. Simply cutting back the vines, honeysuckle, and other things crowding it can help it to compete. If you would like to help out with this, you should first watch the volunteer safety video.  Thanks!