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North American tree (Sassafras albidum) of the laurel family. The aromatic leaf, bark, and root are used as a flavouring, as a traditional home medicine, and as a tea. The aromatic roots yield about 2% oil of sassafras, once the characteristic ingredient of root beer. The tree is native to sandy soils from Maine to Ontario and Iowa and south to Florida and Texas. It is usually small but may attain a height of 65 ft (20 m) or more. It has furrowed bark, bright green twigs, small clusters of yellow flowers followed by dark blue berries, and three distinctive forms of leaves, often on the same twig: three-lobed, two-lobed (mitten-shaped), and entire.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sassafras, visit Britannica.com.