What is sassafrass?

Tim and I walked through Ashley Schiff Preserve in June and we found a larger stemmed plant with these wonky-looking leaves. The plant stood out on the forest, as much of the other plants didn’t have such a cool design to them. Tim and I were interested, so we uploaded the photo to iNaturalist and the app told us it was sassafras. We noticed that while in the preserve none of these sassafras plants seemed large, but that was due to the dense canopy cover. Looking for more info, the Web of Science told us a lot about this plant. We found out that sassafras is crucial to eastern forest ecosystems. One role it has is that it is a host for larvae. It is under threat to a fungus that kills the plant by inducing Laurel Wilt disease. It is more common in the southern United States, which was more relieving. An issue we found was that the fungus wasn’t just targeting sassafras, but other species could be in trouble as well. One example of this was avocado growing in the south. Interestingly enough, the avocado is in the same family as sassafras. The coolest thing about sassafras (in our opinion) is that it has three different types of leaves on the same plant. I can’t think of many common plants around here with that characteristic.


Edward Gallagher

Timothy Fjermestad









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