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USDA Organic Sassafras
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Sassafras is a charismatic tree with iconic leaves shaped like ovals, mittens, or three-toed dinosaur tracks. In fall, this rugged, fast-growing native shade tree will set your landscape ablaze when its quirky foliage takes on hues of gold, rose, orange, and scarlet-red. Sassafras is a wonderful tree for the wildlife-friendly garden, and its aromatic ovals, mittens, and dino tracks serve as hosts for beautiful black and blue spicebush swallowtail butterflies, as well as for the amazing giant prometheus moth. On female trees, the cheerful lemon yellow spring flowers will become dark blue fruits in late summer that may lure bluebirds into your yard, too!
Tread lightly, shrink your footprint, and let yourself grow with USDA Certified Organic Trees. Organic farming has sprung up drastically in importance and influence, spreading worldwide the philosophy of deeply rooting nature in harmony and enriching the soil we stand upon. Benefitting the gardner, enhancing biodiversity, preserving nature's wildlife, and a true direction to protecting our environment. Choosing organic trees on your property, whether they are fruit, nut, ornamental, or shade trees, begins with their soil and cultivates change taking root in your backyard. Take one BIG TREE step for your garden, and one giant leap towards a greener world.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-9
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Common throughout much of the eastern U.S., Sassafras is a beloved member of our country’s natural heritage. A friend to birds, butterflies, and people alike, it has brought shade and shelter to people and wildlife here for centuries. In 1957, a battle erupted over the world’s largest Sassafras Tree in Owensboro, Kentucky. The highway department had the big tree slated for destruction in order to widen a road, but the lady of the house on whose property the tree grew had other ideas. She emerged with a loaded shotgun, and after a long standoff, the state backed down. The venerable champ is now over 100 feet tall and has a trunk 7 feet thick.
Root beer was originally flavored with Sassafras roots, and Sassafras tea was a popular drink in pioneer days. As it turns out, Sassafras oil from the roots and bark of the tree contains saffrole, which has since been discovered to be mildly carcinogenic. However, the leaves contain very little of this substance, and today the powdered thickener knows as “filé” that goes into an authentic pot of Creole jumbo is still derived from crushed Sassafras leaves.
What does it mean to be USDA Organically grown?
- USDA Organic crops are grown exclusively on land that has gone without having non-USDA Organic approved substances applied for three years.
- No pesticides for us, please! Organically grown crops are highly regulated on what can and cannot be used for pest control—worried about harsh chemicals that have been sprayed on your plant? There is only a small number of approved synthetic chemicals that are allowed to be used. Otherwise, farmers use strict biological, mechanical, and physical management practices.
- Not just any type of seeds are used to grow and harvest organic plants: farmers can only use organic seeds or organically raised seedlings in their organic fields.
- Only the best handling is allowed! Organic and non-organic crops are not allowed to be commingled or near each other. Cross-contamination can occur, botching the organic plant's purity due to non-organic substances that could have been sprayed on non-organic harvests; this would cause the organic plant to be considered compromised.
- Fields are carefully cultivated through crop rotation and proper tillage practices to ensure that the soil and the soil's nutrients are kept at a happy balance. Animal manure, not sludge, is allowed to help infuse the soil with nitrogen to support the growth of the organic crops.
How to Grow
Sassafras is easy to grow and is a fast-growing tree in good soil. It prefers full sun and its fall color will be the best where light can reach all of the foliage. It needs well-drained soil and can tolerate dry conditions once established. In the wild, Sassafras is often found in hedgerows and will send up suckers, forming a thicket. This can happen in the home landscape, too, and will create a nice seasonal screen. If you’d rather keep your tree to a single trunk, simply pull or mow any suckers that appear and avoid wounding the trunk or disturbing the root zone, both of which can encourage more suckers to appear.
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